• anthropogenic •
æn-thrê-pê-gen-ik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Man-made, human-made, caused by humans.
Notes: Here is a word creeping out of the scientific world and into general speech. It has an old-fashioned partner, anthropogenetic, which means two adverbs, anthropogenetically or anthropogenically. Notice the semantically empty suffix -al inserted between both adjectives and the adverb suffix -ly.
In Play: If you are not sure whether to use the obvious man-made or the peculiar-sounding human-made, here is an alternative: "The biggest anthropogenic threat to the peregrine falcon is habitat destruction caused by expanding housing developments." Today the argument is whether global warming is the result of anthropogenic or natural causes.
Word History: The short history of today's Good Word began in the 1980s when it was coined by American biologist Eugene then popularized by Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen in the 2000s. It is a combination of Greek anthropos "male or female person" + -cene, a Latinized combining form of Greek kainos "new, fresh". Anthropos looks like it might have come from ander- "man" + ops "eye, face, looks", maybe "having a man-like face" worn down over time. If so, it comes from PIE aner- "man (male)" found in Sanskrit nar- Armenian ayr and Welsh ner "a man". The combining form -cene goes back to PIE ken-/kon- "new, fresh", which we find in Russian načinat' "begin" and Latin re-cen(t)s "fresh, young". (Today's Good Word discovery was made by long-time contributor George Kovac of Miami, Florida.)
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