Word of the Week (221): PYCNON (probability 20496), by David Sutton

PYCNON is a term from ancient Greek music, something to do with the structure of tetrachords: the full definition you are not going to understand unless you are well versed in ancient Greek music, in which case you will no doubt already know what a pycnon is. Note that it comes from the Greek pycnos, meaning dense, compacted, and so has the same root as PYCNIC (or PYKNIC) which refers to someone characterized by shortness of stature, broadness of girth, and powerful muscularity. PYKNIC can be nounal and take an -S; PYCNIC can't.

The same root gives us PYCNOSIS, 'the shrinkage of the stainable material of a nucleus into a deeply staining knot, usually a feature of cell degeneration'. This has a related adjective PYCNOTIC. And it gives another eight which I suspect is seldom played: PYCNIDIA, the plural of PYCNIDIUM, a roundish fructification formed by many species of fungi, and also a perhaps equally obscure seven, PYCNITE, a columnar variety of topaz.

It is sometimes good just to open the dictionary, pick on a root like this and see where it takes you: not the most efficient form of Scrabble study, but quite entertaining and memory is always helped by an awareness of interconnections.


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