Word: aliquot

Pronunciation: A-li-kwət

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a portion of a larger whole, especially a sample taken for chemical analysis or other treatment

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Now here’s a word that comes up a lot in the lab. Whenever I need to prepare an experiment, I usually have to set aside smaller portions of the reagents I’m going to use so as not to risk contaminating the stock. This practice is known as preparing “aliquots”, and it’s a habit that every laboratory researcher should pick up. Lab materials don’t usually come cheap, so compromising only small portions at a time saves us a bundle in the long run!

An “aliquot” is a part of a larger whole, usually for chemical analyses or treatments. The word arose in the late 16th century and traces back through the French noun aliquote to the Latin adjective aliquot, meaning “some”. This adjective is composed of the adjective alius “other” and the adjective quot “how many”.

Despite being a common word in laboratory vocabulary, I believe “aliquot” also has its uses outside of scientific contexts. In mathematics, the word refers to “a quantity that can be divided into another a whole number of times” (also known as an “aliquot part” or “aliquot portion”), and it can also function as a verb to mean “divide a whole into aliquots” or “take aliquots from a whole”. So if your characters ever need to divide large wholes into smaller portions (especially chemicals), you may want to consider writing an “aliquot” or two into your stories. Your readers may not all be scientists, but I’m sure they’ll appreciate learning a new academic word! Have fun!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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