Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Here is Merriam-Webster's word for today, of Latin heritage.

vulnerary \VUL-nuh-rair-ee\ adjective

: used for or useful in healing wounds

Example sentence:
Native Americans prized the herb echinacea for its vulnerary properties, using it to treat burns and snakebite as well as arrow wounds.

Did you know?
"Vulnus," in Latin means "wound." You might think, then, that the English adjective "vulnerary" would mean "wounding, causing a wound." And, indeed, "vulnerary" has been used that way, along with two obsolete adjectives, "vulnerative" and "vulnific." But for the lasting and current use of "vulnerary," we took our cue from the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. In his Natural History, he used the Latin adjective "vulnerarius" to describe a plaster, or dressing, for healing wounds. And that's fine — the suffix "-ary" merely indicates that there is a connection, which, in this case, is to wounds. (As you may have already suspected, "vulnerable" is related; it comes from the Latin verb "vulnerare," which means "to wound.")

*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

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