July 10, 2013
torpedo (noun)
\tor-PEE-doh\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : a thin cylindrical self-propelled submarine weapon2 : a small firework that explodes when thrown against a hard object
How do you use it?
Torpedoes sank hundreds of ships in World War I and changed the nature of warfare forever.
Are you a word wiz?

The "torpedo" was named after something in the natural world. Which one of these do you think it was?

In 1776, Connecticut native David Bushnell devised a wooden submarine with a detachable powder magazine that was to be hooked up to an enemy ship and explode after the submarine had steered clear. Bushnell called it a "torpedo," after the electric ray, a fish that delivers an electric shock. "Torpedo" is the Latin word for the "stiffness" and "numbness" that results from such a shock. Neither Bushnell nor steamboat developer Robert Fulton in the early 1800s had success, but in the late 1860s British engineer Robert Whitehead perfected the modern version of the torpedo.
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