Caducity
Posted: 11 April 2017 01:43 AM   [ Ignore ]
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One I’d forgotten from Gibbon. OED reminds me what it means:

caducity, n.

< French caducité, as if < Latin *cadūcitātem , < cadūcus : see caducous adj. [ultimately from Latin cadere, to fall]

1. Tendency to fall; quality of being perishable or fleeting; transitoriness, frailty.

1793 W. Roberts Looker-on No. 47. 375 One of those evenings of autumn when the chilling damps of the air, and the caducity of nature, deepen the gloom of a melancholy mind.

2. esp. The infirmity of old age, senility.

1769 Ld. Chesterfield Let. 11 Oct. (1932) (modernized text) VI. 2896 This melancholic proof of my caducity.
1776–88 Gibbon Decline & Fall lxi. (R.) Count Henry assumed the regency of the empire, at once in a state of childhood and caducity. [Bingo!]

3. Roman Law. Lapse of a testamentary gift.

1875 E. Poste tr. Gaius Institutionum Iuris Civilis (ed. 2) ii. 264 The leges caducariæ, which fixed the conditions of caducity.

4. Zool. and Bot. Quality of being caducous.

1881 J. S. Gardner in Nature 26 May 75/1 The spores become detached before germination..this caducity always characterises the microspore.

And small wonder that I forgot it. OED estimates its frequency at almost the lowest level.

This word belongs in Frequency Band 2. Band 2 contains words which occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These are almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people. Many are technical terms from specialized discourses. Examples taken from the most frequently attested part of the band include decanate, ennead and scintillometer (nouns)…

BTW there’s an excellent article in OED on calculating frequency which I found very instructive.

OED gives examples of words in Band 1, the lowest frequency band, so low that no percntage can be given for frequency of occurrence per million words. See how many you know or can even guess at (I scored a big fat zero.)

abaptiston, abaxile, grithbreach, gurhofite, zarnich, zeagonite.

[ Edited: 11 April 2017 01:50 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 11 April 2017 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s—I won’t say familiar, but known—to me because of French, where caducité is somewhat more common (basically ‘the state of being null and void’).

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Posted: 11 April 2017 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s a familiar word in Spanish, too. Trees which shed their leaves in autumn (as distinct from evergreens) are referred to as árboles de hoja caduca.  And caducar means “to expire” when applied, say, to a period of validity of a commercial product.

I’d never have thought to associate “caducity” with old age --- but, as I can testify from personal experience, a tendency to fall certainly attends that state, and becomes increasingly dangerous as time goes on, and bones become more fragile.

It’s not surprising that names of uncommon minerals should be obscure; but “grithbreach” is in another category altogether. Grith itself is a nice archaic word I’d never heard of. Thanks, aldi!

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Posted: 11 April 2017 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The word is vaguely familiar to me in English, but quite familiar to me in Italian, because cadere , (to fall, drop, sink ) is a very common Italian word as is cascare,(to fall) cascata(fall, cascade, waterfall).

Also, cadaver, from OED:

Etymology: < Latin cadāver dead body, perhaps < cadĕre to fall. So French cadavre.

[1398 J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomew de Glanville De Proprietatibus Rerum (1495) vi. ii. 187 Careyne hath that name of cadauare of cadere . to falle.]

It seems that all three words are etymologically similar in relationship to the sense of falling.

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