commensal was our Word of the Day on 12/17/2012. Hear the podcast!
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Commensal types, be they human or beast, often "break bread" together. When they do, they are reflecting the etymology of commensal, which derives from the Latin prefix com-, meaning "with, together," jointly and the Latin adjective mensalis, meaning "of the table." In its earliest English uses, "commensal" referred to people who ate together, but around 1870, biologists started using it for organisms that have no use for a four-piece table setting. Since then, the scientific sense has almost completely displaced the dining one.
Origin and Etymology of commensal
Middle English, from Medieval Latin commensalis, from Latin com- + Late Latin mensalis of the table, from Latin mensa table
First Known Use: 1877See Words from the same year
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