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July 23, 2013

Word of the Day

  • aseptic
  • audio pronunciation
  • \ay-SEP-tik\
  • DEFINITION

adjective

1
a : preventing infection b : free or freed from pathogenic microorganisms
2
: lacking vitality, emotion, or warmth
  • EXAMPLES

Patients with compromised immune systems must be treated in aseptic environments.

"[The company's] innovative technology enables it to kill the bacteria that cause foods to go bad and make people sick without ruining the flavor. Not only does that produce tastier, more nutritious food but, by using aseptic packaging that is lighter and more space-efficient than cans, the overall carbon footprint is reduced, [David] Kirkpatrick said." — From an article by David Ranii in the News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina), May 3, 2013

  • DID YOU KNOW?

Things cleaned specifically in a way that prevents infection were first described as "aseptic" in the late 19th century. The word combines the prefix "a-," meaning "not," and "septic," from Greek "sēptikos," meaning "putrifying." "Aseptic" was preceded by more than a century by "antiseptic" (from "anti-," meaning "opposing," and "sēptikos"), which entered English with the meaning "opposing sepsis, putrefaction, or decay." Both words can also be used, like "sterile," to suggest a lack of emotion, warmth, or interest. Evelyn Toynton used "aseptic" thus in The New York Times Book Review, November 22, 1987: "It's hard not to feel that an element of romance has been lost, that the vast chilly reaches of outer space are a pretty aseptic substitute for the shadowy depths under the ground.…"

Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "inselberg," our Word of the Day from June 25? The answer is …

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