Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where There's Smoke


Smoke is defined as the visible vapor given off by burning or smoldering material. The word goes back to Old English, and it was derived from Dutch, German, and Danish models.

More interesting are the words that relate to smoke in a covert way. I'm speaking about terms that usually come from Latin or Greek forms not easily recognized by most people. Let’s run through some examples.

  • acapnia: diminution or deficiency of carbon dioxide in the blood. It comes from two Greek elements—a-, meaning without, and kapnos, meaning smoke.
  • capnomancy: divination by observing rising or swirling smoke.
  • chipotle: a dried and smoked ripe jalapeño pepper, dark reddish-brown with a strong, piquant flavor, used in Mexican cooking. Its source is the Nahuatl chil-, chilli, and poctli, smoke.
  • fumacious: fond of smoking. The source is the Latin fumare, to smoke.
  • fumitory: related to tobacco smoking.
  • fumivorous: feeding or living on smoke, a perfect adjective for a fire fighter.
  • misocapnic: opposed to tobacco smoke.
  • perfume: we associate it with the aromatic mist or liquid used to mask body odor, but originally it referred to fumigation, a cleansing process using smoke.
  • typhus: the infectious fever. It comes from a Greek word, typhos, that meant smoke, but another meaning of typhos, stupor, is directly related to the fever.


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


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