Ripped from the Headlines: November 2021: This Week in Words: Current Events Vocab for October 30–November 5, 2021

Stories about an abundance of avocados, an award-winning bat, and a massive skyscraper all contributed words to this list of vocabulary from the week's news.
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Full list of words from this list:

  1. cancel
    call off or indefinitely postpone a scheduled event
    Over a four-day period starting on October 29, American Airlines canceled more than 2,300 flights. Tens of thousands of passengers were left stranded after the cancellations, which totaled 10% of the airline’s scheduled flights. Sources at American say the disruption was caused by staffing shortages and stormy weather, and that the situation is expected to stabilize by the end of the week. In the 14th century, cancel meant “cross out with lines.”
  2. cemetery
    a tract of land used for burials
    Many cemeteries complicated Día de los Muertos celebrations by limiting the number of visitors allowed. The holiday, observed on November 1 and 2 in Mexico and parts of North and South America, honors departed family members. This year some have had to skip the traditional graveyard visit, where large family groups pay respect to the dead with offerings of food, orange cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, and candles. The Greek root of cemetery means “I lie down."
  3. competition
    an occasion on which a winner is selected from contestants
    On October 31, a Bird of the Year competition in New Zealand was won by a bat. The long-tailed pekapeka-tou-roa, one of the country’s two native land mammals, prevailed in the annual contest, which allows citizens to rank their favorites of about 200 bird species. This year, the bat was included to raise awareness of threats to its habitat from climate change and human intervention. More than 50,000 New Zealanders participated in the competition.
  4. descendant
    a person considered as coming from some ancestor or race
    The great-grandson and closest living descendant of Sitting Bull was identified through DNA analysis of a 130-year-old strand of hair. Researchers announced that 73-year-old Ernie LaPointe, who had long claimed to share ancestry with the legendary Lakota leader, was in fact directly descended from him. Although Sitting Bull lived and died in the 19th century, scientists were able to trace genes from a two-inch section of his hair and compare them to a DNA sample from LaPointe.
  5. domesticate
    make fit for cultivation and service to humans
    Scientists have long struggled to pinpoint the moment when humans first domesticated horses. The fact that horses haven’t changed much over the centuries, unlike most tamed animals, makes it harder to identify the timeframe of their domestication. A new study used DNA analysis to estimate that humans and horses came together about 4,200 years ago near the Black Sea. Genes associated with strong spines and docile natures were used to zero in on the beginning of this ancient relationship.
  6. election
    a vote choosing the winner of a position or political office
    Elections on November 2 brought a Republican win in the Virginia governor’s race and a Democratic win in the close contest between gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey. Voters chose progressive candidates in mayoral races in Boston and Cleveland, while Seattle and Minneapolis elected centrist mayors. The Latin root of election means “choice.”
  7. evolve
    undergo development
    A study published this week explained how some mammals evolved to have tusks. Researchers found that two genetic adaptations were necessary for walruses, elephants, pigs, and narwhals to gradually develop the elongated, powerful teeth. Over time, these animals evolved to lose their tooth enamel and gain ligament-like soft tissue that supported their teeth. These changes laid the pathway for the mammals to eventually be born with tusks.
  8. fatality
    a death resulting from an accident or a disaster
    Data released on November 1 showed that the world had reached a somber milestone: at least five million fatalities due to Covid-19. The highest number of deaths have occurred in the U.S, followed by losses in Brazil and India. The official tally, from data collected by Johns Hopkins University, counts only confirmed cases; some public health experts say the true death count may be twice as high. Fatality shares a root with fate that means "thing spoken by the gods."
  9. gait
    a person's manner of walking
    How well you sleep can affect your gait, according to a new study. Subjects were asked to walk on a treadmill in time with a metronome, and researchers found that those who were sleep-deprived were far less likely to stay on the beat. Walking, once assumed to be an automatic process, is greatly affected by sleep. The results point to the importance of sleep for shift workers and older people, to avoid accidents caused by unsteadiness. The root of gait means "a going.”
  10. glut
    an overabundant or excessive supply
    An avocado glut in Australia sent prices plummeting. The over-abundance of the creamy fruit has forced farmers to sell it at about one-fifth of the price they charged just a few years ago. As demand for avocados surged over the last decade, production doubled, and trees that were planted three years ago are now bearing fruit. The closure of restaurants during the pandemic means fewer customers, and heaps of unsold avocados are now being used for oil or livestock feed.
  11. induct
    admit as a member
    Thirteen musicians were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at an in-person ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio on October 30. Those honored included Jay-Z, the Foo Fighters, Tina Turner, and Carole King. It was the 26th annual ceremony, though last year’s event was held online. Induct comes from a Latin root meaning "lead into or introduce."
  12. koala
    a tailless, gray marsupial that lives in trees
    A dog named Bear has been honored for his heroic work rescuing koalas. The Australian Koolie won an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare after he saved more than 100 of the distinctive, furry marsupials from the country’s bush fires in 2019 and 2020. Bear’s trainer said his enthusiasm for play and his acute sense of smell, which helped him distinguish the scent of koala fur, made him an ideal tracker. Koala is derived from an Aboriginal word.
  13. marathon
    a foot race of 26 miles and 385 yards
    Larry Trachtenberg, who ran the very first New York City Marathon in 1970 as a high school senior, will also be racing in this year’s event, its fiftieth. Though the 67-year-old long-distance runner will be among 33,000 athletes competing in the 26-mile road race on November 7, he will be the only one who ran the city’s inaugural marathon. The word comes from the story of a Greek hero who ran from the Plains of Marathon to Athens to deliver important news.
  14. navigation
    guidance of ships, planes, or vehicles from place to place
    Scientists who specialize in Alzheimer’s disease are studying London cab drivers to learn more about the human brain. The cabbies are known for their navigation skills, and research has found that the longer the cabbies drive, the more their brains’ hippocampi grow. Alzheimer’s, by contrast, shrinks the hippocampus. It’s hoped that studying the cabbies’ brains will aid early diagnosis of dementia.
  15. sanction
    a mechanism of social control for enforcing standards
    World leaders say they won’t ease sanctions against Iran until the country slows its nuclear development. In a joint statement on October 30, President Biden, along with the heads of state from Germany, France, and the U.K., urged Iran to comply with a previous agreement or face continued restrictions on selling oil, metal, and other products around the world. The punishing measures will only be eased if Iran limits its nuclear program and allows international inspections.
  16. skyscraper
    a very tall building with many stories
    To be considered "supertall," a skyscraper must extend at least 300 meters, or 984 feet, into the sky. A new building in Brooklyn has just exceeded that height, making it the borough’s first supertall skyscraper. The $750 million Brooklyn Tower is 93 stories and over 1,000 feet tall. It’s one of many new buildings that are quickly transforming Brooklyn’s skyline. In 1840, a skyscraper was a "high-flying bird."
  17. slander
    attack the good name and reputation of someone
    A new law in China makes it illegal to slander the country's Communist Party heroes. A woman accused of mocking Dong Cunrui, who fought during the civil war that brought the Communists to power in 1949, was recently sentenced to seven months in prison. Critics say it’s just the latest move in China’s increasing crackdown on political dissent and free speech. Slander shares a Latin root with scandal that means “cause of offense.”
  18. solitude
    a state of social isolation
    A small study found that most people experienced benefits from solitude during the early days of the pandemic. Researchers say that respondents over the age of 13 reported positive effects of spending more time alone during that period, scoring their solitary wellbeing an average of five out of a possible seven. Though people also reported negative consequences of solo time, most described feeling "competent and autonomous." Solitude has a Latin root that means "alone."
  19. summit
    a meeting of heads of governments
    Leaders of more than 100 countries gathered for a U.N.-sponsored climate summit this week in Glasgow, Scotland. The international diplomatic meeting, which ends on November 12, is a forum for nations to collaborate on preventing the worst effects of climate change. Attendees have agreed on measures to end deforestation and reduce methane emissions, and they will spend next week negotiating the details of enacting them. Winston Churchill coined this political use of summit.
  20. tinnitus
    a ringing or booming sensation in one or both ears
    Initial research into a connection between Covid-19 and tinnitus suggests that the conditions may be linked. Scientists say it’s too early to confirm that the sensation of ringing or buzzing in the ears, which can be exacerbated by stress, is caused by coronavirus. However, anecdotal evidence shows that many Covid patients experience the hearing-related condition. In one study, 17% of people with “long-haul” Covid had tinnitus. In Latin, the word means “a ringing."
Created on November 1, 2021 (updated November 4, 2021)

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