Word of the Day : May 9, 2015

saltation

play
noun sal-TAY-shun

Definition

1 a : the action or process of leaping or jumping

b : dance

2 : the origin of a new species or a higher taxon in essentially a single evolutionary step

Did You Know?

Saltation comes from Latin, deriving ultimately from the verb salire, meaning "to leap." Etymologists think it meant "leap" or "jump" when it was first used in English, too, but documented evidence of early use in that sense is scarce. Instead, the oldest manuscripts containing the word (which date from the 1620s) show it used as a synonym of "dancing." The first recorded incidence of the "leaping" sense dates from 1646, when British physician and author Sir Thomas Browne used it in an entomological context: "Locusts ... being ordained for saltation, their hinder legs doe far exceed the other." The word made the leap to evolutionary theory in the late 19th century.


Examples

"Neither kangaroos nor rats, the kangaroo rats show a genetic kinship to beavers. The name 'kangaroo' owes to their hopping on enlarged hind legs, a locomotion known as saltation." -Kevin J. Cook, The Coloradoan (Fort Collins, Colorado), August 31, 2014

"Toronto residents asked their public library to remove six books and a DVD over the past year, and one of those books was Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop. The classic rhyming tale of fatherhood and saltation was accused of putting pops at risk of being actually hopped on." - Jay Hathaway, Gawker.com, April 30, 2014



Word Family Quiz

Fill in the blanks to create an adjective that is derived from the Latin verb salire ("to leap") and can mean "not having a plan" or "done without serious effort": d _ _ ul _ or _. The answer is …


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!