Printable Version
Pronunciation: zo-ah-nê-sis Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: From its structure (see Word History) we would expect this word to mean simply "animal disease", but it refers only to those animal diseases that may be transmitted to humans, such as rabies, the plague, cowpox, and malaria.

Notes: Like all English words ending on sis (crisis, basis, analysis), the plural of this word is formed by replacing the -sis with -ses: zoonoses. The first S changes to T in the adjective: zoonotic, another common occurrence in English: analysis - analytic, necrosis - necrotic, and so on.

In Play: I'll admit we don't find many places to use this word, but I still find it cool: "I'm surprised Luella hasn't picked up some zoonosis from all those cats she keeps in her house." Just be careful when you use this word that you are not misunderstood: "No, when I said my son is a zoonosologist, I didn't mean he noses around zoos, I meant that he studies zoonoses, diseases passed from animals to people."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a Greek compound made up from zoon "animal, living being" + nosos "disease". We know little about the origin of nosos, and it occurs in only a few other words: nosology "the classification of diseases" and nosophobia "the fear of diseases" are probably the most widely used. Zoo-, the root of zoon, appears in many words, including zoology [zo-ah-lê-jee], zoolatry "the worship of animals", and zoo itself, which should be pronounced [zo], but isn't. This word started its journey as gweiw-, a root with a G that often became Z, as it did in Greek, or something similar, as in Russian zhit' "to live" (zhivu "I live"). In Latin the G was lost and the Ws became Vs, producing vivere "to live", the root of which we find in several English words, like vivid and survive. (Let's all thank the lively Mr. William Hupy for submitting this intriguing Good Word and wish him a long healthy life without zoonoses.)

Dr. Goodword,

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