The Words of the Week - July 8

Dictionary lookups from the weather, entertainment, and outer space
asteroid approaching earth

This is not the asteroid in question


Asteroid was very much in the news last week, following reports that a large one of these would be coming close to Earth.

A bus-sized asteroid is passing safely by Earth today and you can watch for free
— (headline), 6 Jul. 2022

We define asteroid as “any of the small rocky celestial bodies found especially between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.” The reason for that mention of “between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter” is that this is the location of an asteroid belt where more of these celestial bodies are found. However, some asteroids also orbit the sun in such a manner that they come close to Earth.

Here are some other items that move around in outer space, which have meanings that are different from asteroid:

Meteor: a piece of rock or metal that burns and glows brightly in the sky as it falls from outer space into the Earth's atmosphere.

Meteorite: a meteor that reaches the surface of the Earth without burning up entirely.

Comet: an object in outer space that develops a long, bright tail when it passes near the sun.


Deadname also spiked in lookups, after it appeared in numerous articles relating to Elliot Page.

Twitter Allowed Elliot Page's Deadname To Trend In Spite Of Its Hateful Conduct Policy
— (headline) Buzzfeed News, 5 Jul. 2022

Our definition of deadname (as a noun) is “the name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning.” The verb is defined as “to speak of or address (someone) by their deadname.” The noun form is generally written as a single word, although it is occasionally found as an open compound (dead name); the verb is typically only found as a single word.


Extreme weather sent a number of people to the dictionary to see what a derecho is.

Derecho turns sky green, sweeps through 5 states with 90 mph winds
— (headline) The Washington Post, 6 Jul. 2022

A derecho is “a large fast-moving complex of thunderstorms with powerful straight-line winds that cause widespread destruction.” The word comes to English directly from Spanish, in which it means “straight”; this is in contrast with tornado, which is thought to have come from a Spanish word meaning “turned.”

’Hot mic’

Hot mic was also in the news last week, as it often is when someone manages to publicly say something which they then perhaps wish was not quite so public.

At an evangelical victory party in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the downfall of Roe v. Wade last week, a prominent Capitol Hill religious leader was caught on a hot mic making a bombshell claim: that she prays with sitting justices inside the high court.
— Kara Voght & Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 6 Jul. 2022

Mic (pronounced like the name Mike) is a common abbreviation of microphone. Hot, which is modifying mic, has a wide range of possible meanings; the one most relevant here is “electrically energized especially with high voltage.” Hot mic has been used since the 1930s to refer to a microphone that is operational and transmitting sound, especially when doing so for a person who is unaware that it is functioning.


Audit was found in many news stories, after it was widely reported that two members of the FBI had been subjected to intensive scrutiny by the IRS.

The head of the Internal Revenue Service has asked a watchdog to investigate the decision to conduct rare tax audits of former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the agency announced Thursday.
— Kara Scannell, CNN, 7 Jul. 2022

The earliest meaning of audit (and the one that is relevant here) is “a formal examination of an organization's or individual's accounts or financial situation.” The word may be traced back to the Latin audīre, meaning "to hear.” This auditory origin makes more sense when one considers that many of the original audits, at the time the word came into English (15th century), relied on spoken, rather than written, information.

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Philostorgy’

The week’s word worth knowing is philostorgy, defined by Thomas Blount in his 1656 dictionary as “the love of parents towards their children.” The word has, it must be said, seen little use in the centuries since it appeared in Blount’s dictionary, but we hope that your weekend (and subsequent week) is replete with philostorgy.