What's in a Word | All Blogs


Big words for petite powerhouses

By Debra Dobbins

If the words in this headline are unfamiliar, reading the subhead helps us guess their meaning:

Using the context clues in the subhead, we can infer (logically guess) that diminutive dynamos are small but powerful football players. We can test our inference by reading the story. Sure enough, it provides details on Danny Woodhead, not quite 5-foot-8, and Darren Sproles, 5-foot-6, whose outstanding performances make them dynamite in small packages for their teams. (Check out the print edition or e-edition for the entire story.)

Dynamos, or powerful people, dominate other fields, too. For example, many people consider Bill Gates a dynamo in the computer world, Bruce Springstein a dynamo in the music world and Hillary Clinton a dynamo in the diplomatic world.

A dynamo also means “a generator that produces direct current with the use of a commutator,” according to Wikipedia. Webster's says that the word stems from the Greek word dynamis, which means power.

How many other synonyms for diminutive can you think of? Check Friday’s blog for a few more.

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