Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cry Me A River

Allergy season blew in with a vengeance this year in northern Michigan, so watery eyes are the norm in these spore- and mold-laden parts. That gives me an opportunity to focus on words that contain the concept tear, as in the clear liquid secreted by the lachrymal gland of the eye.

Lacrima was the Latin word for tear, but let’s focus on the Greek word today, δακρυον (dacryon), a tear.

Apodacrytic: (A) adj. Exciting tears. (B) n. Anything having this tendency, such as onions.

Dacryd: a tree like the yew, in allusion to resinous drops exuded by these trees.

Dacrya-/dacryo- is a combining form, often found in obsolescent medical terms. Here’s a sample.

• dacryadenalgia: pain in a lachrymal gland
• dacryadenitis: inflammation of a lachrymal gland
• dacryagogue: agent provoking a flow of tears
• dacryocystitis: inflammation of a tear-sac
• dacryohemorrhea: the discharge of bloody tears
• dacryolin: the form of albumin found in the tears
• dacryolith: a calculus or concretion occurring in the lacrymal passages
• dacryoma: a state preventing the tears from passing into the lachrymal sac
• dacryops: (A) an affection of the eyelid: a clear cyst due to distension of one of the lachrymal ducts. (B) a watery eye.
• dacryorrhea: morbid flow of tears.

Referencing the last word, an ancient Greek verb used to describe a drunkard was “to swim with tears.” Today, we’d lean on adjectives such as lugubrious and maudlin.

SIDEBAR: Cry Me A River

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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