What is dropsy?

Word count: 281 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

If you increase your vocabulary you’ll not only help your reading, you’ll also make your writing more precise. Here is my word of the week.

I like understanding medical terminology. It somehow makes me feel as though I’ve infiltrated a secret society. What I find even more interesting, however, is learning a medical term accidentally. This happened to me, recently, with a word in a  New Yorker movie review (published July 30/12) by Anthony Lane. The word? Dropsical. The review? The new Batman movie. Here is the sentence in which the word appeared.

The Dark Knight Rises, however, is murky, interminable, confused and dropsical with self-importance. 

I’d encountered this word many times before — perhaps I’d even looked it up. But I hadn’t retained its meaning. Turns out it means swollen with fluid. (The new term for this, which funnily enough, I knew already, is edema.) The word’s history dates back to Old French from idropsie and the Middle English ydropsy. But  the origins go even further back to the Latin hydropsis, which in turn came from the Greek hydrops Even my tiny brain can remember that hydor means “water” which I hope will help me to recall the meaning of this word the next time I encounter it.

By the way, dropsy is the noun and dropsical, in the quote above, is an adjective.  My apologies that I couldn’t find a better photo to illustrate the word. The hand I show appears only slightly swollen – I tried but failed to find a large, gouty toe or leg, which would have been far more memorable.

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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