• zyzzyva •
zi-zê-vê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A genus of tropical South American weevils particularly fond of palm trees.
Notes: Who has the last word? The sole interest in this word is the fact that it is the last word in the American Heritage Collegiate dictionary. The last word in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged is a related word, zyzzogeton "a genus of large South American leafhoppers of the family Cicadellidae". The Oxford English Dictionary ends on a nonword, zyxt, a long-obsolete Kentish spelling of second person singular present tense of see! Clearly, American Heritage has a word more befitting last position in a dictionary than the competition.
In Play: The next time you see a raggedy palm tree, you may wish to speculate, "I wonder if that tree is under attack by zyzzyvas?" It will be worth it just to see the expressions on the faces of those with you. Let's say someone calls you an insignificant bug; you now have a retort that trumps their term hand over fist: "I consider that a compliment coming from a zyzzyva like you." When they look it up they will find that it is the least known bug on earth and the lowest thing in the dictionary. Top that!
Word History: Less is known about the origin of this word than is known about the bug itself. It is common to say that it comes from New Latin Zyzzyva, genus name, probably from Zyzza, former genus of leafhoppers. The reason for the mystery of this word's origin is probably that it is an onomatopoetic word based on the sound bugs make, especially beetles, when they fly.