Printable Version
Pronunciation: kæ-lis-then-iks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass or count

Meaning: A system of gymnastic exercises, performed without equipment to improve physical fitness.

Notes: Today's word has almost disappeared from use with the advent of a multitude of exercise machines. It is based on an adjective, calisthenic or calisthenical, which brings along an adverb, calisthenically. A building designed for calisthenics is sometimes called a calisthenium. Some Britons prefer a double L in all these words: callisthenics.

In Play: The literal sense of this word might be heard in sentences like this: "No matter how long Gooden Small did his morning calisthenics, he could not build his muscles enough to impress impressive women." However, it is probably used figuratively more often today: "Myna Bird's tongue gets all the calisthenics it needs."

Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of Greek kallos "beauty" (or kalos "beautiful") + sthenos "strength". No one seems to know where kallos came from, but we know where it went; we see it in calligraphy, calliope, and callipygian—all borrowings from the Greek. Sthenos, on the other hand, came from PIE segh- "to overcome, hold, possess", which also went into the making of Sanskrit sahah "force, victory" and sahate "overcomes", Greek schema "form, state, nature", German Sieg "victory", Dutch zege "victory", Swedish seger "victory", and, maybe, Russian and Serbian sila "might, power, strength".

Dr. Goodword,

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