Number one for English language teachers

Word of the week: Hectic

Type: Reference material

Having a hectic week? Well, at least you're unlikely to be suffering from a recurrent fever. Tim Bowen explains the Greek origins of this Word of the week.

'The leader's last days saw him embark on a hectic whistlestop tour of the country.'

The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners defines hectic as 'full of busy activity'. The word also suggests a great deal of haste and, possibly, frantic confusion, as in 'Today saw hectic trading on the London Stock Exchange as dealers desperately tried to sell over-priced stocks'.

All of this is a far cry from the original meaning of hectic. The word derives from a Greek word hektikos meaning habitual and was often applied to people suffering from a habitual or recurrent fever. In English, hectic came to mean simply 'suffering from a fever' and thence feverish. It was a short step from this use for the word to be used to describe feverish activity but, surprisingly perhaps, it was not until the early years of the 20th century that hectic was used in this way.

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