Printable Version
Pronunciation: sai-mah-trê-kês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Curly-headed, having wavy hair.

Notes: Occasionally we like to examine a perfectly useless word just to remind us of the boundless richness of the English vocabulary. Today's Good Word is such, an adjective from the noun cymotrichy "curly-headedness". It is, of course, the medical term for curly-headed and raises, yet again, the question of why doctors need a discrete and arcane language all to themselves.

In Play: We're not suggesting you say things like this: "Oh, honey, just look at that cute cymotrichous little boy over there!" (But if you like attention, this is a real attention-grabber.) This is a term whose use is best restricted to conversations with MDs: "Dr. Procter, I was very cymotrichous before I started taking the medicine you prescribed. What happened?"

Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound noun made up of two Greek words: kyma "wave, something swollen" + thrix, tricho- "hair". This is the same word that underlies trichinosis, the disease we once caught from undercooked pork. This disease is caused by a hair-like baccilus, trichina, whose name is based on the same root, trich-. Kyma comes from the verb kyein "to be pregnant" + -ma, a noun suffix. The Proto-Indo-European root keu- "swell(ing)" had a split personality, referring to both concave and convex swellings. In Latin this root turned up as cavus "hollow" which found its way into English cave, cavern, cavity, and concave.

Dr. Goodword,

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