Summer’s almost here, so let’s talk about HEAT. It’s amazing how many words we have on the subject. A quick scan of the Word Voyage database revealed 8 root families that mean heat, fire, glow, warm, cook, or ripen. Let’s take a look at them:
Hot Root #1: cald, calor, cauld, chaf, chal, chauf
Looking at the various spellings of this root, words like scald, calorie, cauldron, and chafe jump out. Some others that are less obvious are nonchalant “not warm, not having concern for”; and chauffeur, which originally meant “a stoker.” This word goes back to the days of steam engines, but in the early 1900’s it transitioned to the sense of “professional driver of a private motorcar.” So a chauffeur is one who has the car warmed up and ready to go.
An interesting outlier in this family is coddle, which was originally used as both a noun meaning “warm drink for invalids” and a verb “boil gently.” The modern meaning “treat in an indulgent or overprotective way” is said to have first appeared in Jane Austin’s Emma:
“My dear Isabella,”—exclaimed he hastily—”pray do not concern yourself
about my looks. Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself and the
children, and let me look as I choose.”
Another outlier is chowder, from the French chaudière “a pot,” which maps back to the Latin calidus “warm, hot.”
Hot Root #2: cand, cend, cens, chand
This root also delivers a nice variety of words. We know a candle is “that which burns, makes light.” Given this, one might assume that a candidate is one who brings light, clarity. But no, this word comes from the Latin candidatus “white-robed.” Those Roman guys loved their togas, and if they were running for office they made sure it had “brilliant whiteness.” With that said, the cand root does bring the idea of “clarity” to candid and candor. Similarly, the filament in an incandescent bulb helps us see clearly by glowing white hot.
A chandler is a maker or seller of candles, a chandlery is a storeroom for candles, and a chandelier is a holder of candles and “that which shines.” Incense is something we burn, and to be incensed is to be “inflamed with anger.” Incendiary “capable of setting fires” is often used figuratively to mean “incite, rouse, excite, enrage.”
Hot Root #3: caust, caut
Here we have caustic “capable of burning; corrosive”, and cauterize, from the Greek kauter “burning or branding iron.” Interestingly, this family also includes calm, probably from the Latin cauma “heat of the mid-day sun.” And there’s also ink, from the Greek enkaustos meaning color that is “burned in.”
Hot Root #4: coct, cuis, kitch
This is the cooking family that serves up cook, kitchen, kiln, concoction, culinary, and cuisine. We also have terra-cotta “cooked earth.” And of course, there is food: biscuit and biscotti “twice-baked”, ricotta “re-cooked”, and apricot “early ripening.”
Speaking of early ripening, this root family is also home to precocious “pre-cooked, ripened before (others)”, describing kids that have amazing talents at an early aged.
Hot Root #5: fer, ferv
Here we have another root about “boiling, hot, and glowing.” The verb ferment “to leaven, cause to rise” maps back to the Latin fervere “to boil, seethe.” Effervescence comes from the same Latin word, but the added prefix ef creates the sense of “boiling up, boiling over.” As with so many “heat words,” it can be used figuratively: “high-spirited; vivacious; lively; sparkling.” More family members include fervor, fervent, fervid, and perfervid, among others. An interesting outlier is comfrey, “boil together”, referring to the plant’s medicinal use.
Hot Root #6: flam, flagr
Obviously, this one gives us flame, aflame, flammable, and other flaming words, but it also delivers flamboyant “glowing, shining”; inflammation “state of burning”; inflammatory “tending to inflame emotions”; flamingo “flame-colored, red-feathered”; flagrant “burning with visual intensity, glaringly offensive”; and conflagration “that which burns strongly, thoroughly.”
Hot Root #7: pyr, pyro
Pyr rhymes with fire and means it too! There are many familiar words in this family, e.g. pyre, pyrotechnics, pyromania. The noun empyrean, from the Ancient Greek empyrus, “in or on the fire” refers to the highest heaven, which was supposed to be occupied by the element of fire. The adjective form empyreal might be used to describe a particularly radiant sunset.
Hot Root #8: therm, thermo
This last root on the list is very familiar, anchoring words like thermometer, thermostat, thermal, thermos, hypothermia, thermodynamics, and geothermal, as well as terms like endothermic and exothermic.
OK, we burned through the Heat Roots. Stayed tuned for the next hot topic!