What does sessile mean?

Word count: 290 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. Today, my word of the week is sessile.

I like to think I have a large vocabulary but there’s one part of my brain that’s so empty it’s like a shopping mall parking lot at 3 am. As a teenager and young adult, I steered clear of anything relating to science. I did lots of other terrific reading but, sadly, missed an entire genre of literature. It wasn’t until I met my husband (a zoology grad) that I discovered Stephen Jay Gould and Lewis Thomas and learned that science could not only be accessible but also, interesting.

My husband has a larger vocabulary than I do — not because he’s read more (he hasn’t) but because he’s read far more widely. I was reminded of this again, recently, when I finished the novel The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell and found my word of the week, sessile. Here is the sentence in which it appeared:

She feels sessile now, like a mussel shell, welded to the house, to the few streets around it.

The comparison to a mussel shell gave me the hint that sessile realtes to biology. And, indeed it does. It describes an organism — like a barnacle — that is fixed in one place, immobile. It may also mean a plant or animal structure that is attached directly by its base, as a mussel is.

The adjective dates back to 1725, from the Latin sessilis which means “pertaining to sitting” and reminds me of my need to continue reading about science.

By the way, I just checked with my 18-year-old daughter and she knows what sessile means. She’s working on her degree in biology. Good for her!

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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