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urticator

The word “urticator” is not an official word in any dictionary I've seen, but it is derived in a standard way from existing words, and so has some claim to legitimacy.

The ultimate root of “urticator” is the Latin word “urtica”, which my Latin dictionary defines as follows.

stinging nettle (causing a burning rash upon contact); desire, itch

Although my Latin dictionary doesn't list a verbal form, I suspect there is one, because there's a verb in English that looks to be derived from it: to urticate. Here's what my (English) dictionary has to say about that.

To sting or whip with or as with nettles.

The corresponding Latin verb is “urtico”, so that the part of speech meaning “one who urticates” is “urticator”.

At this point, we know the basic meaning of the word “urticator”, but several important questions remain unanswered. Who is being stung or whipped with nettles? And why? The one factual answer I have comes from the entry in my dictionary under urtication.

A lashing with nettles formerly used to treat a paralyzed part of the body.

I have some other thoughts on this matter, but they don't belong within the scope of this dictionary entry, and so are addressed elsewhere.

* * *

An old friend just reported another example of urtication: some bird-eating spiders have urticating hairs that they use for self-defense. They scratch their backs, and these little hairs become airborne and sting their enemies. So, the spiders are all little urticators. I always liked spiders!

 

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@ March (2000)
o May (2002)