July 20, 2016
buzzer (noun)
\BUHZ-ur\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: an electric signaling device that makes a buzzing sound
How do you use it?
Lemeaux slapped the hockey puck into the goal just before the final buzzer sounded.
Are you a word wiz?

"Buzzer" is almost 400 years old, and (unlike most English terms) we know who first used it in print. We'll give you two clues. The original "buzzer" writer (a) was British, and (b) was famous as a playwright. Given those clues, who do you think first used the word "buzzer"?

Shakespeare wasn't talking about electric signaling devices when he used the word "buzzer" in his famous play _Hamlet_, but he was talking about something that can make a buzzing sound -- a nosey gossiper (the type who spreads the latest buzz about the neighbors). The word "buzz" probably developed when people came up with a word that imitated a buzzing sound. After Shakespeare's early use, "buzzer" came to be used generally for anything that makes a buzzing sound (such as an insect), but the word didn't become very common until electric buzzers were invented.
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