tear

Definitions

General English

  • noun a drop of salt water which forms in your eye when you cry
  • noun a place where something has a hole in it from being torn
  • verb to make a hole in something by pulling
  • verb to pull something into small pieces

Medical

  • noun a drop of the salty fluid which forms in the lacrimal gland. The fluid keeps the eyeball moist and clean and is produced in large quantities when a person cries.
  • noun a hole or a split in a tissue often due to over-stretching
  • verb to make a hole or a split in a tissue by pulling or stretching it too much

Origin & History of “tear”

English has two separate words tear, both of ancient ancestry. The sort of tear that one weeps (OE) goes back (together with its Germanic relatives German träne, Dutch traan, Swedish tår, and Danish taare) to prehistoric Indo-European *dakru-, a word of uncertain origin which also produced Welsh deigryn and Latin lacrima (source of English lachrymal (16th c.) and lachrymose (17th c.)).

Tear ‘rip’ (OE) comes from an Indo-European base *der- ‘tear’, which also produced Russian drat’ and polish drzeć ‘tear’. The base *der- denoted the concept of ‘flaying’ as well as ‘tearing’, in which sense it produced English turd and Greek dérma ‘skin’ (source of English dermatitis, epidermis, etc).
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