A Not Terrible* Word

Terrazzo flooring is a composite mixing flecks of quartz, marble, glass, or other substances with a base such as cement, or, in recent times, a polymer. It’s like a mosaic, except the little pieces are scattered randomly and do not form a pattern. The tiles you’ve seen on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are terrazzo. Terrazzo is a common option for kitchen floors and walkways and frequently shows up on design shows these days.

Photo by Martin Kleppe on Unsplash

Terrazzo is originally an Italian word, derived from the Latin root terra, meaning “earth” or “land.” Friend of our youth E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, was born outside of (extra) the earth.

Terrarium and terrain are two other common derivatives. Terrapin, however, is a fooler; this turtle’s name comes from Algonquin words for, you guessed it, “turtle.” Terraqueous is an oxymoronic combination of land and water, kind of like your child’s bath water after she’s played in the mud.

Linguistically speaking, the English equivalent of terrazzo is terrace, a balcony or porch, originally a platform built on a mound of earth (terra). When you build your new terrace, you could install terrazzo flooring and explain to all your guests the etymological connection.

*Not the same root. Terrible comes from terrere, to scare.

This entry was posted in Wednesday Word and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *