Wednesday, December 01, 2010


While tuned in to the Weather Channel, Marianne heard the word ablation used, and she passed it on as an interesting term. Ablation came from a Latin word meaning removal or carrying away, and it has a wide range of uses.

In Marianne’s context, it refers to the gradual removal of snow or ice by wind erosion. It is used when speaking of glaciers or a snow pack. Of course, ablation can also happen more quickly when direct sunlight or higher temperatures melt the snow or ice.

Other uses of the word betray its dependence on the original Latin word that meant removal.

  • surgical removal of an organ or tissue (e.g., cardiac, endometrial, dermabrasion)
  • removal of material from a surface, whether by wind (e.g., sand in a desert) or heat (an electrode)
  • the loss of surface material from a body as a result of frictional heating as it passes through an atmosphere (e.g., spacecraft heat shield)

SIDEBAR: laser ablation

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

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