Word of the Day : August 27, 2011


noun TOR-per


1 a : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility

b : a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals

2 : apathy, dullness

Did You Know?

Our English word "torpor" looks the same and means the same thing as Latin "torpor," from which it was borrowed into Middle English. It stems from the Latin verb "torpēre," which means "to be sluggish or numb." "Torpor" first appeared in a 13th-century guide for religious recluses, where it referred to a spiritual or intellectual lethargy, but there is very little evidence of its use over next the 400 years. It began showing up again in the early 1600s in reference to both mental and physical sluggishness. The related adjective "torpid" (from the Latin adjective "torpidus") entered the language in the 15th century.


The magazine article provided ideas for activities designed to shake off the torpor of a rainy day.

"Hummingbirds as a whole could not survive without going into torpor at night. During this state their body temperature plummets (they lack insulating downy feathers), their metabolic rate drops by 95%, and they appear to be dead." -- From Mark Denny and Alan McFadzean's 2011 book Engineering Animals: How Life Works

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "adventitious," our Word of the Day from August 11? The answer is ...


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