July 10, 2013
- torpedo (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : a thin cylindrical self-propelled submarine weapon2 : a small firework that explodes when thrown against a hard object
- How do you use it?
- Torpedoes sank hundreds of ships in World War I and changed the nature of warfare forever.
- Are you a word wiz?
The "torpedo" was named after something in the natural world. Which one of these do you think it was?In 1776, Connecticut native David Bushnell devised a wooden submarine with a detachable powder magazine that was to be hooked up to an enemy ship and explode after the submarine had steered clear. Bushnell called it a "torpedo," after the electric ray, a fish that delivers an electric shock. "Torpedo" is the Latin word for the "stiffness" and "numbness" that results from such a shock. Neither Bushnell nor steamboat developer Robert Fulton in the early 1800s had success, but in the late 1860s British engineer Robert Whitehead perfected the modern version of the torpedo.