WORD LISTS

This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for September 17–September 23, 2022

September 19, 2022
Stories about basketball champions, quadrillions of ants, and the Eiffel Tower all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
ancestor
A new sculpture by Indian artist Bharti Kher has been installed at an entrance to New York's Central Park. The bronze work, called Ancestor, is 18 feet tall and depicts a 24-headed goddess. Kher has described the sculpture as a "mother figure," with the heads representing both children and the figure's "other selves." It's also intended to convey a kind of common forebear from whom all humans are descended. The Latin root of ancestor means "to go before."
asphalt
After an Atlanta school coated its playground blacktop with a new solar-reflective paint, the temperature dropped 12 degrees. The coating can be applied to hot urban asphalt in streets, bike lanes, and parks, where it reduces heat and protects the tarry surface. Untreated asphalt can reach temperatures of 120 degrees on a 75-degree day. The back paving material absorbs a huge amount of solar energy, contributing to the urban heat island effect that makes cities feel hotter.
assembly
The 77th United Nations General Assembly convened in person on September 19 for the first time in three years. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a somber opening speech that addressed the Russian war with Ukraine, climate change, and global poverty. It's the largest regular meeting of world leaders, attended this year by about 157 heads of state. The Latin root of assembly is assimulare, "gather together."
champion
The Las Vegas Aces defeated the Connecticut Sun 78-71 on September 18, making the team WNBA champions for the first time ever. Point guard Chelsea Gray was named most valuable player after scoring 20 points for the Aces, helping them win Game 4 of the championship finals. It was head coach Becky Hammon's first season leading the team, and she was honored as the league's coach of the year. Champion is derived from a Latin word meaning "gladiator."
consensus
By examining people who reached a general agreement with each other after having deep conversations, a neuroscientist found that their brains actually became synchronized. Using brain scanners, Dr. Beau Sievers observed that when subjects watched a movie separately, their brain activity differed. But when they discussed specific scenes and came to a consensus about their meaning, those patterns began to mimic each other. The Latin root of consensus means "feel together."
conserve
To help conserve electricity, the Eiffel Tower will shut off its iconic lights more than an hour early. Starting September 23, the Parisian landmark went dark at 11:45 p.m. instead of remaining lit until 1:00 a.m. Other Paris monuments will follow suit, reducing energy consumption by about ten percent. Officials also plan to set thermostats in public buildings lower throughout the winter. The push to save energy comes in response to Europe's shortage of natural gas from Russia.
cortege
After a state ceremony at Westminster Abbey, Queen Elizabeth II's funeral procession traveled through central London as mourners lined the streets to pay their respects to the long-serving monarch. The cortege was led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and included members of the royal family and household following the Queen's coffin. A cortege was originally a group of attendants or courtiers trailing behind a king or queen, from a root word meaning "court."
dementia
Scientists are investigating a possible connection between air pollution and dementia in elderly people. Growing research has shown that poor air quality contributes to a loss of cognitive functions including memory. Two new studies suggest that reducing air pollution significantly reduces rates of dementia. The word dementia derives from Latin roots de-, "away from," and mens, "mind."
dictionary
Merriam-Webster added 370 new entries to its dictionary this month, including slang terms like adorkable, which is defined as "socially awkward or quirky in a way that is endearing.” The collection of words and phrases also gained the Covid-related subvariant and booster dose and the verb MacGyver, "to make, form, or repair (something) with what is conveniently on hand." The Latin root of dictionary means "word."
excavate
Three years after researchers discovered the ruins of Sak Tz'i', an influential Maya kingdom, archaeologists have returned to excavate the site. Restarting the dig on a Mexican cattle ranch involves protecting the 2,500-year-old remains as they are carefully unearthed. Artifacts including a limestone slab etched with the Maya calendar, cooking tools, and stone walls have so far been dug up. Excavate is from a word that means "to hollow out" and a root meaning "cave."
ferry
In Marseille, France, the world's first non-polluting ferry has officially set sail, transporting passengers to and from the Mediterranean island of Corsica. The boat is equipped with a filtration system that captures nearly 100 percent of sulphur oxides and ultrafine particles that make up the primary pollutants emitted by ships. Officials hope to use the same technology across the entire cruise ship industry. The Old Norse root of ferry means "passage across water."
hurricane
Five years after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, the island was battered on September 19 by strong winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Fiona. Although it's much smaller than Maria, which left about 3,000 people dead, this is the largest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 2017. Over 20 inches of rain caused flash flooding and left most of the island without power. Hurricane is rooted in the Taino hurakán, "god of the storm."
phantom
The longest-running show on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera, will close in February after 35 years. Slowing ticket sales have made it impossible for the play to cover its high production costs. The musical tells the story of a disfigured man who haunts an opera house in Paris while disguised in a mask, becoming obsessed with a young soprano. The Phantom moves through the opera like a ghost. The Greek source of phantom, phantasma, means "apparition."
raptor
Volunteers at a raptor rehabilitation center are helping growing numbers of injured birds of prey recover and return to their wild lives. Owls, hawks, eagles, and osprey are among the hunting birds that are brought to Maryland's Owl Moon Raptor Center after being hit by cars, poisoned, tangled in wires, or otherwise harmed. Raptors get their name from the Latin rapere, "to seize," for the way they hunt, grabbing their prey with their talons.
swap
In a prisoner swap between the U.S. and the Taliban government of Afghanistan, an American was released from captivity on September 19. Engineer Mark R. Frerichs, who has been held hostage since 2020, was turned over to U.S. authorities in exchange for the freeing of an imprisoned Taliban supporter. Swap, originally defined as "to strike the hands together," came to mean "trade" from the tradition of slapping hands to signify agreement in a bargain or exchange.
ubiquitous
After calculating how many ants there are on Earth, scientists are describing them as nearly ubiquitous. While many insect species face population declines and extinction, ants can be found everywhere, with the exception of some very cold regions. There are an estimated 20 quadrillion ants in the world, enough to outweigh every single mammal and bird on the planet. No wonder it seems like ants are everywhere! The Latin root of ubiquitous, fittingly, means "everywhere."
ukulele
Passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight to Hawaii this month were surprised to find free ukuleles in their seats. Onboard instructors gave them lessons on how to play the small, guitar-like stringed instruments during the trip. In Hawaiian, 'ukulele means "leaping flea." The instrument's name comes from the flea-like speed of a player's fingers jumping from string to string.
underestimate
New research shows that most of us underestimate how willing others are to help. Two thousand people participated in a study comparing their expectations of whether friends would agree to lend a hand with their actual willingness to do so. The majority of participants miscalculated by a lot. Rather than grudgingly agreeing to help a friend in need, most were enthusiastic about it and reported positive feelings afterward. Similar results were found when strangers were asked for assistance.

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