Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
December 13th, 2015
Episode 400 of 903 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for December 13, 2015 is: syzygy \SIZ-uh-jee\ noun : the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system Examples: The full moon and new moon phenomena occur when the earth, sun, and moon are in syzygy. "Whether you have a three dimensional orrery or a flat blackboard, eclipses are easy to illustrate and understand and occur at the moment of syzygy when the sun, earth and moon are aligned." Clellie Lynch, The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), 30 Sept. 2015 Did you know? At first glance, syzygy appears to be a somewhat singular member of the English language. Despite its appearance, however, it does have etymological ties to a few words in Modern English. Syzygy can be traced to the Greek syzygos ("yoked together"), a combination of syn- ("with, together with") and zygon ("yoke"). Zygon is also the source of zygote ("a cell formed by the union of two gametes") and zygoma, which refers to several bones and processes of the skull, including the zygomatic bone (a.k.a., the cheekbone). Zygon is also related to the Old English geocthe source of the Modern English yokeand the Latin jungere, from which the English words join and junction are derived.