Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Etymology Today from M-W: jettison \JEH-tuh-sun\
1 : to throw (goods) overboard to lighten a ship or aircraft in distress
2 : discard

"Jettison" comes via Anglo-French from the Old French "getaison," meaning "action of throwing," and ultimately from the Latin verb "jactare," meaning "to throw." The noun "jettison" ("a voluntary sacrifice of cargo to lighten a ship's load in time of distress") entered English in the 15th century; the verb has been with us since the 19th century. The noun is also the source of the word "jetsam" ("jettisoned goods"), which is often paired with "flotsam"("floating wreckage"). These days you don't have to be on a sinking ship to jettison something. In addition to literally "throwing overboard," "jettison" means simply "to get rid of." You might jettison some old magazines that are cluttering your house. Or you might make plans, but jettison them at the last minute.

- Previous E.T.

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