In a word: desiccated

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


A recipe may call for the use of desiccated coconut, that is, dehydrated, dried coconut. The word (pronounced DES-uh-kate-ed) comes into English from the Latin verb desiccare, "to dry up." If you desiccate something, you remove the moisture from it. If you use a chemical agent to dry something up, the agent is a desiccant.

As is so often the case, the literal sense of the word has taken on a figurative meaning. Something desiccated lacks interest, animation, passion, energy. It is often applied to academic subjects, such as history, and the professors who specialize in them.


Example: In an episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce says: "I'd like a dry martini, Mr. Quoc. A very dry, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini."

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