January 24, 2012
eccentric (adjective)
\ik-SEN-trik\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : odd in behavior2 : being off center
How do you use it?
Aunt Lily, a rather eccentric member of the family, left her entire fortune to her pet fish, Fluffy, when she died.
Are you a word wiz?

Judging from what you know about "eccentric," which of the roots below do you think is the origin of "eccentric?"

It was the Greek word "kentein," meaning "to prick," that gave rise to "eccentric." From "kentein" developed the noun "kentron," meaning "center," as in the center of a circle. The Greeks combined the prefix "ex-," meaning "out of," with "kentron" to form "ekkentros," the grandparent of "eccentric." "Eccentric" does have a meaning of "deviating from a circular path," as in "an eccentric orbit," but it is the "odd" meaning that is most familiar. Perhaps something or someone odd or unusual reminded people of the perfection of a circle becoming skewed. Someone who was eccentric deviated from the normal path, and thus was figuratively "out of center."
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