Improve Your English Vocabulary Through Physics: 'A'


It is imperative that Science students should have a sound knowledge of English when they learn Science, especially Physics when the medium of learning is English. Un-fortunately, in India, that spirit is missing from students They think that learning language is not their concern and that it is enough they become tech-savvy. But this author strongly feels that students of Physics should have an excellent knowledge of English which will go a long way in improving and exhibiting their talents. There is an imperative need to improve the vocabulary. For this, they need not go in search of various English text books. On the contrary, if they understand the literal equivalents of the technical terms their vocabulary will improve a lot. With this intention, the author has ventured to select some technical words, which are not so common in public use and give their literal and general applications. This is the first article in the series explaining a few words starting with the alphabet 'A'.

1. Aberration:

This word is associated with Optics and Sound in Physics. The Scientific meaning of this word is non-convergence of light rays due to the process known as Chromatic aberration or difference of focus of marginal rays known as Spherical aberration.

This technical word is derived from the word 'aberrate', which means to wander or deviate from the right way.
Eg: His support of Nazi front in II world war is an aberration in his otherwise patriotic character

The other Technical words related to this word are coma and astigmatism. The word 'coma' is commonly used in medical field as "The patient went into coma" meaning that the patient went into deep unconsciousness whereas in Physics it means a blurred nebulous focusing of light.

The word 'astigmatism' means a defect in eye, lens or mirror, the word having been derived from stigma which means any special mark, usually having a negative meaning

Eg: He is not given promotion because there is a stigma in his report.

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The word aberration is used in sound also with the same meaning as in optics.
When a performer deviates from the normal note (Wanders randomly) we call that there is an aberration. There is a beautiful Sanskrit equivalent for this word as found in 'Apaswaram' meaning that the note is on the wrong side.

2. Accretion:

The scientific meaning is' mass accumulated by gravitational attraction as in the case of Black Hole etc.

Normal literal meaning is 'continued external growth' which is a derivation of the word accrescent which means ever increasing as in the case of phases of the moon which is known as crescent.

3.Adiabatic process:

Adiabatic process means any process that occurs without heat entering or leaving the system. Hence there is neither increase nor decrease in temperature. In fact no heat energy passes 'through' the system.

The root of this word is 'dia' which means to pass through. (Diameter is a straight line, passing through the central point). Hence adiabatic in Thermodynamics means no heat is passing through the system.


The dictionary meaning is 'whiteness', the proportion of light reflected by a planet giving it the whiteness we observe. The meaning attributed in Physics is the ratio of the incident flux reflected by a surface to that falling on it. It also represents the Probability of reflection of a neutron reflected back from the very surface it entered. It may be noted that all the three meanings have only a little difference and the common thing is whiteness retained.


Anemo means wind and anemometer is a measuring instrument for speed of wind. For that matter, any word with the prefix 'anemo' refers to wind only. Other examples are: anemographic, anemology, anemophily etc.


Aqua means water and aqueous is water solution.
It may be noted that any word which has aqua in it relates to 'water'. Some other words are: aqua fountana, aqua regia, aquarium so on and so forth.

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The root of this word is 'arm'. Armature is any apparatus for defense. In Physics, it means a piece of iron set across the poles of a magnet, a moving part which indicates the flow of current and other uses of similar nature.


Astronomy is the study of Universe beyond Earth's atmosphere. So, the prefix 'astro' means something with reference to Heavenly objects like the word Astrophysics. Asteroids are small bodies that revolve around the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In other words, they are minor planets or off-springs in the Heaven.


The word refers to hearing sense. Auditorium is the place where we hear something. Audio-visual education is the apt substitute for sound and light show.


The dictionary meaning is 'to make thin, or slender'. In Physics the word possesses the same meaning while referring to the weakening of signals.

11. Avalanche:

This is an excellent English word which means 'a hurtling mass of snow, with ice and rock, descending a mountain side'. One may be surprised to note that this word is used with the same meaning as 'shower' of electrons in transistor diodes and other electronic instruments.The diode which uses this effect is known as 'avalanche Diode'.


We have analyzed some English words starting with the alphabet A used frequently in Physics along with their dictionary meanings. The roots of the words also were discussed.

The aim of this article is to create the awareness among the readers that Physics technical terms, in fact, originate from grammatical English only. Any scholar, whether those of Physics stream or Language stream should develop the habit of going deep into the origin of the word with its meaning. If that awareness is created, the purpose of this article is fulfilled.

The author wishes the reader all the best.


Source by Bhimarao Sathyanarayanan