Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Roberto asked about the word gross, trying to piece together how 144 pencils (or other items) and repellant corpulence connect.

All senses of the word track back to the Latin grossus, thick, bulky, stout. Once upon a time, a gross was a medieval coin. Its value varied from country to country. In England, it was eventually called a groat.

Used as a noun, a gross is twelve dozen of any item. The first instance in the OED dates to 1411. As an adjective, gross has meant massive, big-bodied, unwholesomely fat, palpable, flagrant, total (gross vs. net), dense, composed of material, solid, coarse, stupid, rough and ready, and indelicate.

The same thread runs through what a movie grosses, the Scarlet Grosbeak, a concerto grosso, the gross national product, and grossing someone out.

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

Nook edition

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