Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Deca- - 10 Words To Do With Ten


Combining form. Before a vowel dec-.
[Greek deka ten.]

Used with the sense 'having ten, tenfold';
specially in names of units of measurement, used to denote a factor of ten.

In actual fact, there are far more than ten deca- words in English (though wouldn't it have been tidy if there were?), many of which are both tortuously tongue-twisting and dribblingly dull, like decahydronaphthalene, which is ... well ... some sort of solvent.

There are a number of deca- words that mean 'pertaining to ten', such as decadal and decadic, and some very familiar words too, such as decade (although, if you consider decade to be oh so very last decade, you can also use decennium, which means exactly the same thing but sounds so much more refined); a decathlon is a commonly mispronounced sporting event in which decathletes engage in ten different events, the Decalogue is the Ten Commandments, and December is so called because it was the tenth month in Roman times.

Finally, and just to confuse you, the related word deci- means 'one tenth', such as in decibel, decimal and decimate, and the words decadent, decalcomania and decaffeinated have absolutely nothing to do with the number ten at all.

Do please leave your tensest comment in the box below.


  1. In Christianity we have Decalogue, also known as Ten Commandments ;).
    It's derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos.

  2. Decatron (sometimes spelt with K) -

    "The dekatron was useful for computing, calculating and frequency-dividing purposes because one complete revolution of the neon dot in a dekatron means 10 pulses on the guide electrode(s), and a signal can be derived from one of the ten cathodes in a dekatron to send a pulse, possibly for another counting stage".

    Popular in the 1950's and 1960's until overtaken by the much smaller transistors and integrated circuits..

    1. Decatron sounds a little bit like a hackneyed sci-fi techno-villain.

    2. Yes and he had a mate called Rhumbatron who lived in a cavity and was a bit of an oscillator.

  3. But I thought that someone decadent has only ten teeth left because of eating so many sweets.

    1. Funny you should say that, because 'decadent' comes from the verb 'decay'!

      But then you probably said that because you knew that already.



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