Monday, February 9, 2009


desiccated [DESS-i-cāt'd]
adj. lacking spirit or animation; arid; dehydrated

[Derives from Latin ("removal") + siccāre ("dry")]

More than anything else, to me, desiccated and desiccate ("to dry out") are spelling challenges. They get that confusing double-c in the middle from their Latin root siccāre. If you don't know that, the orthography is a mystery. There are a couple of other English words which have a siccāre root: siccative ("causing or promoting the absorption of moisture; drying"); and exsiccate ("to dry up or cause to dry up"). Siccative can also be a noun ("a drying agent"); and exsiccate has related forms, exsiccation ("the act of drying up"), exsiccative ("causing dryness"); and exsiccator ("one who dries something up").

Although desiccated literally means the same thing as dehydrated, it tends to be used in a less literal sense. A person who is desiccated is generally someone who is lacking vigor, as opposed to moisture. A person who simply needs more water is dehydrated or parched.

Its figurative sense was how a book reviewer in The Economist recently used desiccated in describing how the physicist Paul Dirac, the Nobel Prize winner who discovered antimatter, was misperceived:
To many of his colleagues, he appeared uninterested in anything other than mathematics. They were astonished when he married. Yet he was far more than a desiccated calculating machine, as Graham Farmelo's biography shows.

1 comment:

Lexicon Artist said...

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