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Pronounced /ˈzaɪmɜːdʒɪ/Help with pronunciation

A useful term, zymurgy refers to the art or practice of fermentation. Unsurprisingly, it is best known within the fields of winemaking and brewing. The journal of the American Homebrewers Association has that title and its readers may be called zymurgists. If you need a related adjective, there’s zymurgical. The related word zymology (adjective zymologist), is employed for that part of chemistry dealing with the fermentation action of yeasts, especially products that are intended for human consumption. All these words come from Greek zume, meaning a leaven, typically a yeast, that’s added to make a substance ferment. It’s also the origin of enzyme.

Outside the field of fermentation, those who do notice it tend to focus on its being the literal last word. The phrase from aardvark to zymurgy is sometimes used to mean everything, these supposedly being the first and last nouns in the dictionary.

However, a check on my big stack of single-volume dictionaries shows that — apart from the New Oxford American Dictionaryzymurgy is rarely the last word. Some have one of related sense, zythum, a beer that was made by the ancient Egyptians; others prefer to end with Zyrian, another name for the language now usually called Komi; the American Heritage Dictionary has zyzzyva, a genus of tropical American weevils, which is also the last word in The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (an interesting choice since Scrabble has only one z available, though you can make it if you happen to have the two blank tiles available); you may feel that The Bloomsbury English Dictionary has cheated by including zzz as its last word, “a representation of the sound made by somebody sleeping or snoring, often used in cartoons”.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 22 Sep. 2007
Last updated: 14 Nov. 2010

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-zai1.htm
Last modified: 14 November 2010.