Printable Version
Pronunciation: zum Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, noun, interjection

Meaning: 1. To move or travel fast (and noisily). 2. (Photography) To move smoothly from a long shot to a closeup or vice versa, as 'to zoom in on the face'. 3. To move sharply upwards as 'the value of stocks zoomed today'. 4. (Interjection) An exclamation indicating sudden swift motion.

Notes: Here is a word made topical by the COVID-19 (SARS-2) pandemic in obvious ways throughout the world. It is the name of the videotelephonic software application that makes possible electronic video meetings. This verb may be used as a noun in senses Nos. 2 and 3 or meaning "vigor, zest, gusto", as 'to work with plenty of zoom'.

In Play: The original sense involves speed and noise: "We were out in the yard when Ogilvy zoomed by on his Harley." In the photographic sense, we usually may either zoom out or zoom in: "Don't zoom in so much on her; you're cutting me out!" Finally, occasionally, it is used as an interjection: "I proposed to her, then, suddenly, zoom! She ran out of the room."

Word History: Today's word is onomatopoetic (created by sound imitation). The earliest recorded occurrence of this word appeared in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, January 1886, in the sense of "buzz" as 'bumble bees zooming'. By 1917, when the first noun use appeared in the London Daily Mail, its meaning had shifted to its current sense. By that time several countries were building flying squadrons in anticipation of World War I. Flying had already become the fastest means of transportation and the noisiest to most folks. By 1930s photographers had abandoned the sense of "noisy" and were beginning to use it for lenses that moved and brought the view of the subject closer. Then, in 2011, Zoom Video Communications, Inc. chose it to name its videotelephony product that brings videos of people in various parts of the world together. (The gratitude owed Rob Towart has been mounting for more than a decade for the dozens of excellent Good Words like today's that he has recommended.)

Dr. Goodword,

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