Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Today's Word: prehensile

prehensile: Adapted or designed with the ability to grasp things, especially by wrapping or folding around the object.

The strange thing about prehensile is that it isn't obvious, at first glance, how the common prefix pre- fits into the etymology and meaning of the word. As it turns out, a second glance doesn't help either. According to Webster's New World, it comes from a combination of pre- plus the "unverified form" of the Indo-European ghend. (The word get has the same ancestor.)

Perhaps a wandering linguist or lexicographer can explain what is meant by "unverified form." Or maybe someday I'll peruse the guide at the beginning of the dictionary and discover some clues there.

Just remember that prehensile is related to apprehend and its ilk and you'll have no problems.

Incidentally, I have watched exactly one episode of the Dean Cain version of Ripley's Believe It or Not — I was an avid fan of the Jack Palance version back in the day — and that one episode highlighted a man with basically a giraffe tongue. Seriously, the guy could lick his own eyebrow! His long tongue was very nearly prehensile. It was disgusting, but I was transfixed.