Wednesday, September 02, 2009

. . . and the few

Mark from Traverse City reports that he was listening to CNBC earlier this week when Erin O’Brien used the word oligopoly. “Either I wasn’t paying attention,” says Mark, “or she never got around to defining it.”

An oligopoly is the domination of a market by just a few individuals or corporations. The combining form oligo- comes from an ancient Greek word that meant having few or having little. It appears in some interesting words.

• Oligoblennia is insufficient mucous production, leading to dry membranes.

• An oligochronometer was an instrument used to measure very small periods of time.

• Oligodontous refers to a species of snake that has relatively few teeth.

• Oligogalactia is a deficiency of milk secretion.

• Oligoglottism is a limited knowledge of languages.

• Oligomania is a mental illness characterized by the dominance of a small number of irrational ideas.

• Oligometochia was the avoidance of participles or participial constructions.

• Oligophagous describes an insect that feeds on a limited range of plants.

• Oligoprothesy was the sparing use of prepositions.

• Oligosyllabic means having few syllables.

• Oligotrophic is used to describe a lake or wetland relatively poor in plant nutrients.

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

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