Wed., Dec. 19, 2012
A Word A Day — algid
"Lifting the taffeta hanging from the seat under the windows, he stroked the pipes of the radiator. He touched cold metal, metal algid as ice!" — From Carl Van Vechten's 1925 novel Firecrackers: A Realistic Novel
"They knew how to keep moving, with air so algid it hits like a sledgehammer the moment you step into it." — From Michael D'Orso's 2006 book Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska
- DID YOU KNOW?
"Algid" is a rather cold and lonely word, etymologically speaking—it's the only word in any of the dictionaries we publish that comes from the Latin word "algēre," meaning "to feel cold." Also, English speakers have warmed to its many synonyms—among them "cold," "frigid," "arctic," "chill"—much more readily than they've taken to "algid." Even its compatriot, "gelid"—also a Latin-derived adjective that can describe ice and arctic temperatures—has managed to outpace it in most decades of the approximately 400 years the words have been in use. In one context, though, "algid" does something its synonyms don't: it describes a severe form of malaria that is marked by prostration, cold and clammy skin, and low blood pressure—a meaning that probably hasn't done much to endear the more general use to speakers of English.