Elements of the Universe: Aqua

The ancients believed that the universe, or the kosmos/cosmos, was composed of five basic elements: earth, air, fire, water, and sky. (When advances in technology revealed more elements that were much smaller, these classical five were reclassified as states of matter--solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.) The ancient words for these elements show up in our language today, through Greek and Latin roots for earth (terra, geo), water (hydor, aqua), fire (ignis, pyr), and words from the sky including air (aer, ventus, aither), star (astron), and sun (sol).

Find words from cosmos here, then check out lists from other Greek and Latin word-forming elements: cosmos, terra, geo, hydor, aqua, ignis, pyr, aer, ventus, aither, astron, sol

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. aqua
    a shade of blue tinged with green
    With an aqua, orange and yellow color scheme, the room is bright and cheery but gives off a slight cafeteria vibe.Washington Post (Jul 26, 2015)
    aqua (water)
    The root and definition show the word as a noun, but in the example sentence, all the colors function as adjectives to modify the noun phrase "color scheme."
  2. aquamarine
    a transparent variety of beryl that is blue green in color
    The crook is set with precious stones, rubies, turquoises, aquamarine, and lapis lazuli.Jackson, F. Hamilton (Frederick Hamilton)
    aqua (water) + marinus (of the sea)
    As a color, aquamarine is the same as aqua. As a gemstone, aquamarine is fairly common, so it is often not seen as precious as rubies, turquoises, or lapis lazuli (whose name translates into "stone of azure" because it has a deep blue color, but "lazuli" is actually a mishearing of the name of a place in Turkestan where the stone was collected by Marco Polo).
  3. aquatint
    a method of etching that imitates the broad washes of a water color
    During the following decades numerous technical variations were developed, the most popular being the pastel manner, the stipple, and the aquatint.Kainen, Jacob
    aqua (water) + tincta (dyed)
    In addition to being the name of an artistic method, an aquatint can be the final product created by that method. Aquatinting requires broader strokes than stippling, which engraves with small dots or flicks.
  4. aquatic
    operating or living or growing in water
    Stunned researchers in Antarctica have discovered fish and other aquatic animals living in perpetual darkness and cold, beneath a roof of ice 740 meters thick.Scientific American (Jul 2, 2015)
    aqua (water) + ic (suffix forming adjectives)
    Although "aquatic" and "marine" are often used as synonyms, a marine animal is always aquatic, but an aquatic animal is not always marine. "Aquatic" connects to any type of water of any size in any place, while "marine" connects only to water in the sea or ocean.
  5. aquarium
    a tank or pool filled with water for keeping live fish
    People feel significantly happier and their blood pressure comes down when they spend time in aquariums.BBC (Jul 31, 2015)
    aqua (water) + orium (suffix meaning "place")
    Originally, an aquarium was a place where cows got their water. A vivarium was a place where live creatures were kept, and a marine vivarium was a fish tank. Nowadays, an aquarium can be a single tank or pool for aquatic animals, or it can be a place with many such tanks and pools.
  6. aquaculture
    rearing aquatic animals or cultivating aquatic plants for food
    Norway is among the countries embracing aquaculture and is the world's leading producer of farmed Atlantic salmon.BBC (Jun 11, 2015)
    aqua (water) + cultura (a cultivating, care)
    "Culture" is a suffix that can be affixed to almost anything that can be carefully produced. In comparison to aquaculture, agriculture cultivates land animals or plants for food; horticulture is focused on plants for food, medicine, or decoration; and puericulture is concerned with raising healthy children.
  7. aquifer
    underground layer of rock or sand that yields groundwater
    But the shallowest layers — say, the first mile — can hold natural reservoirs, or aquifers, with water sweeter and cleaner than almost any other on Earth.Scientific American (Jul 20, 2015)
    aqua (water) + ferre (to bear)
    The example sentence uses "aquifer" and "reservoir" as synonyms, but the adjective "natural" is needed to differentiate between the two. A reservoir is usually a place that is deliberately reserved to collect and store something, which, unlike an aquifer, doesn't have to be water.
  8. aqueduct
    a conduit that carries water over a valley
    Half the water for Los Angeles comes by aqueduct from the Owens Valley over 200 miles away, a diversion that began in 1913.Washington Times (Apr 22, 2015)
    aqua (water) + ductus (a leading, conducting)
    The definition and example sentence describe a large artificial structure that provides water for millions of people. But an individual human also has natural aqueducts that carry fluids between body parts.
  9. aqueous
    similar to or containing or dissolved in water
    The front cavity of the eyeball, which is again divided in part by the iris, is filled with the aqueous humor.Walters, Francis M.
    aqua (water) + ous (suffix forming adjectives)
    An aqueous humor sounds funny, but the Latin "umor" means "body fluid." The aqueous humor provides the nutrients for the cornea and lens, and it affects the pressure that inflates the eye. Too much aqueous humor can lead to blindness.
  10. aqualung
    a device that lets divers breathe under water
    On the other hand, the Scuba—Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, like the boys' aqualungs, really does allow the diver to get down among the fish.Goodwin, Harold L. (Harold Leland)
    aqua (water) + levis (light)
    Ancients who threw the organs of a slaughtered animal into a pot of water noticed that the heart and liver sank while the lungs floated. This is how lungs became associated with lightness. The word "aqualung" used to be a hyphenated proper name coined by the French inventors Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan, but like the acronym SCUBA, it became a generic, lower-case noun to describe any underwater breathing device.
  11. aqua vitae
    strong distilled liquor or brandy
    Must I then leave you, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Aqua Vitae—pleasant jolly fellows—Damn Temperance and them that first invented itLucas, E. V. (Edward Verrall)
    aqua (water); vitae (life)
    In Late Middle English, "aqua" was often used in a phrase to refer to a mixture created by boiling a substance to extract a flavor or medicine. The French version of aqua vitae is eau de vie, and both can refer to whiskey, whose etymological roots also connect to water and life.
  12. aqua fortis
    acid used especially in the production of fertilizers and explosives and rocket fuels
    What is the antidote for aqua fortis and oil of vitriol?Cutter, Calvin
    aqua (water); fortis (strong)
    Because the example sentence is from a text entitled "A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene," the phrases "aqua fortis" and "oil of vitriol" literally refer to dangerous acids. But "vitriol" can also be "abusive or venomous language to express blame or censure." Thus, taken out of context, the example sentence can figuratively suggest that someone just got nastily yelled at and needs something to prevent the words from eating away at his heart.

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