Syzygy must be really valuable in some word games. Such an odd little word.

I’ve run into the word syzygy in diverse contexts and wondered what the meanings had in common. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word comes from

Greek syzygia “yoke, pair, union of two, conjunction”

It is used in biology to denote a pairing of chromosomes. Jung uses it to denote a pairing of opposites.

In astronomy it refers to an alignment of three objects in a gravitational system. In math it denotes an alignment of sorts, a linear combination of module generators that sums to 0.

5 thoughts on “Syzygy

  1. C.S. Harris Floudas

    According to the Liddell-Scott dictionary of Ancient Greek (”syzygia” means joined, united, or union, so although stemming from “syn” (=plus) and “zeugnymi(=to join things)->zeugos (=pair)/zygos (a rod connecting two poles)”, “syzygia” is doesn’t only refer to pairing/pairs.

    In Latin grammar, the equivalent in is conjugatio periphrastica activa.

    In everyday modern Greek language however the most commonly used form is “syzygos”, which means husband/wife.

  2. The science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was fond of both the word and the notion; he even used it in the title of his 1948 short story “It Wasn’t Syzygy”.

    In the game that Selchow and Righter used to insist must always be called “Scrabble(R) Brand Crossword Game”, the word syzygy is quite rare, because it requires the single Z in the set of tiles, both Y’s, and one of the two blanks (for the other Y), in addition to one of the 4 S’s and one of the 3 G’s. The word’s raw score value (before any multipliers) is only a moderately high 22, because only two of the Y’s will get score.

  3. Not good for hangman, I think, at least not with skilled players.

    After the guesser fails to find any E or A they’ll likely go straight to other vowels, get no O, I, U, and then try Y. At which point they have -Y-Y-Y and they’ll solve it instantly.

    Unless they happen not to know the word “syzygy”, which (1) is unlikely for adults who bother to play hangman and (2) is just as possible with any other unusual word (or at least any other unusual word containing at least one unusual letter).

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