October 06, 2012
terra-cotta (noun)
\tair-uh-KAH-tuh\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : a glazed or unglazed baked clay used for pottery, statues, and building materials; also : something made of this material2 : a brownish orange
How do you use it?
My grandmother and I planted flowers in pots made of terra-cotta.
Are you a word wiz?

English speakers borrowed "terra-cotta" from the Italian words "terra cotta." What do you think the Italian words mean?

If you picked D, bravissimo! Italian "terra cotta" means "baked earth." The words trace back to Latin. The "terra" part of "terra-cotta" is at the root of several English words that have something to do with earth. "Terrier" names a dog that digs in the earth and a "terrarium" is an enclosed garden. "Terrestrial" can refer to anything on or from earth, while "extraterrestrial" describes things that come from somewhere other than earth, such as outer space. The "cotta" -- or "baked" -- part of "terra-cotta" is found in "biscotto"—usually seen in its plural form, "biscotti"—which also comes from Italian and names a type of cookie.
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