senescence

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DEFINITION

noun
1. the state of being old : the process of becoming old
2. the growth phase in a plant or plant part (as a leaf) from full maturity to death.

EXAMPLES
1. Vera avoids the pitfalls of senescence by exercising daily and staying active in her community.
2. “Butler’s book grew out of the experience of her father’s long-drawn-out senescence, enabled primarily by the installation of a pacemaker in his heart that kept it beating long after his other faculties withered.” — From a book review by Michelle Dean in The Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2013.

DID YOU KNOW?
“Senescence” can be traced back to Latin “senex,” meaning “old.” Can you guess which other English words come from “senex”? “Senile” might come to mind, as well as “senior.” But another one might surprise you: “senate.” This word for a legislative assembly dates back to ancient Rome, where the “Senatus” was originally a council of elders composed of the heads of patrician families. There’s also the much rarer “senectitude,” which, like “senescence,” refers to the state of being old (specifically, to the final stage of the normal life span).

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