Friday, June 19, 2009

Latin roots of the word VACATION!!!

Welcome back, fans of Greek and Latin root words as they pertain to the word origins of English vocabulary words! I'm about to head off on vacation, and thought it might be fruitful to know just what we mean when we talk about what we all love best. So...the root word of "vacation" is:

vaco, vacare, vacavi, vacatum: to be empty, to have leisure (void) and
vacuus: empty

When we are no longer responsible for our everyday, quotidian affairs, that of picking up the kids, going to work, doing the dishes, and all the pertinent minutiae that make up life every day, we empty ourselves of those duties, those offices, and are once again (supposedly) free to enjoy life. Thus, "emptied" of these everyday responsibilities, we move into a state where we can "have leisure" to enjoy what we would like to do. The most wisely planned vacations can do that; those that are not so wisely planned, however, can include a great deal of "travail," which can come during "travel" (a word whose origin is a medieval torture device that contained "three stakes" whose use remains unknown today); consider the torture one must go through as one misses plains, or is beleageured by traffic jams, etc.

So, let's begin with other SAT words that are related to the word "vacation" and have to do with emptying include:

vacuous: a "vacuous" stare is one devoid of any intelligence whatsoever, sort of like when a cow stares at you
vacate: to vacate an area is to go away from it, hence emptying yourself from it
void: a "void" is empty of anything whatsoever; of course, words like "avoid," "unavoidable," and "avoidable" all have to do with emptying from one's overall experience as well
devoid: is something is "devoid" of matter, there is nothing in it
vacuity: total absence of matter; a vacuum; nothing there (a vacuity of brains)
vacant: a "vacant" lot has nothing in it
evacuate: to "evacuate" an area because of a natural disaster is to "empty" it of all its citizens.

Some good biological terminology also comes from this root:

vacuole: a cavity, or empty area, in a cell's cytoplasm; note that "cytology" is the biological study of cells
vacuome: a system of vacuoles in a living cell, via the Greek suffix "-ome," which means "mass." Some good botanical terms use this suffix, including rhizome, leptome, and mestome.

Well, I'm off to the Green Mountains of Vermont for a couple days of hiking. I hope that you all have great vacations this summer, and are able to "empty" yourselves of life's tribulations at least for awhile.

vacuole: part of a cell's cytoplasm that contains a cavity