Printable Version
Pronunciation: pin-poynt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, noun

Meaning: 1. (Noun) The point of a pin. 2. (Noun) A very small spot. 3. (Verb) To locate exactly, precisely.

Notes: Here is another compound noun that is used more often as a verb than as a noun. It is an authentic English word that uses its present participle, pinpointing, for an adjective and noun. It does have a passive adjective, pinpointable, that first appeared in print in 1943.

In Play: The verbal use of today's word is about as common as the noun use: "Harold had set Esmerelda's smartphone so that he could pinpoint her whereabouts wherever she happened to be." Remember, you don't need to qualify the noun pinpoint with tiny: "Moving pinpoints of light were forming on the drops of the melting icicle.

Word History: Today's Good Word obviously comprises pin + point. Pin resulted from the suffix -n being added to pet-/pot- "to flow, fly". We see results of this in Latin pinna "feather", Welsh pin "pin, pen", Irish pinne "pin, peg", and German Pinne "pin, tack" (probably borrowed) and Finne "fin". Pet-/pot- shows up without the suffix in English feather, German Feder "feather", Russian ptica "bird", and Greek potamos "river", as in hippopotamus "river horse".

Point comes from PIE peuk-/pouk- "to prick", apparently with a Fickle N, since it is also the source of Latin pungere "to prick". The past participle of this word is punctus, the ultimate source of English punch and puncture. Greek made two words from the PIE word: peyk "pine tree" and peygme "fist". Latin had another word, pugil "boxer", which English borrowed and extended to pugilist.

Dr. Goodword,

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