Saturday, December 05, 2009


Thirst is a universal elementary condition, so it’s no surprise that the first written instance in English goes back to at least 1,000 AD. It evolved from a similar form (thurst) that existed in many Germanic languages.

The Greek word dipsa meant thirst, and several English words were patterned on that.

  • The dipsas was a serpent whose bite was supposed to produce an unimaginable thirst.
  • A dipsetic is a medicinal preparation that induces thirst.
  • Dipsomania is an insatiable thirst for alcohol.
  • Dipsopathy was a medical treatment based on abstinence from liquids.
  • Dipsosis meant a morbid degree of thirst.
  • Polydipsia was a morbid thirst that resulted in excessive water consumption.

The corresponding word in Latin was sitia, and that was absorbed into several English words.

  • To sitiate was to thirst.
  • Siticulous means very dry.
  • Sitient meant thirsting in the physical sense, but it was also extended to the metaphorical sense of coveting.

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

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