The Joy of Language Learning

Words of a Wandering Cloud

The English poet William Wordsworth used to wander like the object that is the basis of our discussion today:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills

from Daffodils by William Wordsworth

These fluffy looking balls of cotton floating around in the sky are actually made up of minute  water droplets, frozen crystals and other small particles. But, instead of their composition, we would like to draw your attention to the words we composed from them.

Image Credit: Dimitri Vetsikas

While the word ‘cloud’ itself has been derived from Latin cumulus (a heap or pile), the Latin word for clouds was nebula. The equivalent Sanskrit and Greek terms are nabhas and nephos respectively.

If you have studied about the universe, you know that nebula now means an interstellar cloud of dust and gas such as hydrogen and helium. It is the birthplace of stars and planets. From these clouds of dust, we also have nebulous which means hazy or not clear (cloudy). For instance, if someone does not have a definite idea as to what they would like to do in the future, we can say that their aims are nebulous, i.e. not clear.

Helix Nebula.
Image Credit: WikiImages/ Pixabay

A nebulizer, on the other hand, is a machine that converts liquids such as paint or medication into fine mist. These days, it is most commonly used to refer to a medical device to administer medication in the form of mist which is inhaled. It is specially used in the case of asthma.

Image Credit: Marco Verch/Pixabay

The word nuance has similar roots. It refers to a subtle difference in meaning, shade or sound. It’s actually a French word that means a slight difference in shade of color. In English, however, it isn’t only limited to colors and can be used in sentences like ‘he was aware of nuances of the local dialect’.

If these words still seem nebulous, the table below will help enhance your understanding. Then you can proceed to the quiz and crossword.

Table Summary:

PrefixWord SuffixMeaning
NebulaInterstellar cloud of dust and gas such as hydrogen and helium
Nebula-ousHazy or not clear
Nebula-izerA machine that converts liquids such as paint or medication into fine mist
NuanceA subtle difference in meaning, shade or sound

Welcome to your Cloudy Quiz

"Nebula" in the given headline means:
What does 'nebulizer' mean in the given headline?
"Nuanced" in the give headline means:
What does "nebulous" mean in the given excerpt?

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