Printable Version
Pronunciation: kê-kek-si-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: Physical or mental wasting, withering, debility caused by malnutrition or chronic illness, like anorexia or cancer.

Notes: Cachexia (cachec-sia) comes with an adjective, cachectic. We also have an old Anglicized version of this word, cachexy, discussed all over the web, extended to refer to politics and morality, but not actually used since the 19th century. Since this word is of Greek origin, the CH, originally like the CH in Scots English loch and German sprechen, is pronounced [k] in regular English.

In Play: Today this word is encountered mostly in medical documents: "Leonard's treatment for cachexia was so successful it led to obesity." But I have recommended rescuing useful vocabulary from medicine many times before. So, since cachexia is in current use, I propose we extend its sense to cover the hole left in the English vocabulary by the loss of cachexy: "A pandemic should not befall a nation when the state of its government can only be described as cachexia (cachectic)."

Word History: English borrowed this word whole from Latin cachexia, which borrowed it from Greek kakhexia, comprising kako- "bad" + hexis "body habit, condition", the noun from ekhein "to have, hold, keep". Greek came upon its word by way of Proto-Indo-European segh- "to hold", source also of Greek skhola "leisure", borrowed by Latin as schola "leisure for intellectual conversation", which English borrowed as school. German Sieg "victory", as in Sieg Heil! "Hail victory!" came from the same PIE source via the Germanic route. It also underlies hector. (Now it's time to thank our well-known friend, George Kovac of Miami, Florida, who feared this gem of a Good Word might wither away from disuse.)

Dr. Goodword,

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