The -escent Suffix
My five year old is now reading fluently and as a result is asking all sorts of questions about the meanings of words. The other day, she asked why fluorescent bulbs were so named and I realized that I had absolutely no idea, so I set out to find out more about this suffix.
It turns out that -escent is used in two ways. The first relates to the play of light and color and is seen in words such as:
- fluorescent – having a type of luminescence caused by the absorption of radiation
- iridescent – having a lustrous, rainbow like play of color
- pearlescent – having a pearly luster
- opalescent – reflecting an iridescent light
- phosphorescent – the quality of luminescence without heat
- incandescent – white or glowing with intense heat
- luminescent – low temperature emission of light
The other use of -escent indicates a change of state. Something may be beginning to change, have changed slightly or resemble another object. That use gives us words such as
- obsolescent – becoming obsolete
- quiescent – becoming quiet
- arborescent – resembling a tree
- effervescent – beginning to boil or bubble
- adolescent – becoming an adult
- convalescent – recovering health gradually after being ill
- florescent – beginning to flower
Related suffixes are -esce and -escence (as in convalesce and convalescence)
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