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Definition: A group of organisms that evolved from the same common ancestor.

Pronunciation: Clay-d

Origin: The science of evolution is still in its relative infancy. Thus, the terminology is not that old. The word clade appears for the first time only in 1958 by scientist William Huxley. It was derived from the Greek ‘klados’, referring to an offshoot or branch.

Why This Word:

That clade has only been around since the late 1950’s does not seem correct. It feels like a word with deeper roots – a word that when you hear, you should know what it means. In short, it feels like a ‘real’ word rather than a recently created Pinocchio.

A ‘Cladist’ has come to refer to a particular evolutionary viewpoint – namely, that one cannot consider some organisms ‘primitive’ and other ‘advanced’- they simply are what they are and should’t take on such labels.

Huxley famously described the process of evolution, random that it is, as ‘progress without a goal’. Sounds to me like a perfect summation of not only evolution, but of the century in which Huxley lived!

How to use this word:

One wonders if it is time for Clade to join mainstream speech. After all, it is a good, honest word – an easy to pronounce word with a relatively simple definition. Do today’s cars, for example, form a clade that began with the Ford Model T? Could it be argued that the clade of modern pop and rock bands can trace their ancestry back to the Beatles? The jury is out on this suggested use – but it may well be time for clade to take its next evolutionary step.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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