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Fermentation at Dictionary's End


Fermentation in beer brewing is the conversion of sugar molecules into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide by yeast. (Photo: Heineken International, Amsterdam.)

One of the last words in English-language dictionaries is zymurgy. A prized word in the lexicon of beer brewing, it means the branch of biochemistry concerned with fermentation processes in brewing. The word's origin is Greek: zymo (leaven) and urgy (work), that is, the workings of fermentation. Zymurgy (pronounced zi'mur'je) is often cited as the last word in English-language dictionaries, but other z words, such as zyzzyva (a genus of tropical American weevils), or zythum (a drink made by the ancient Egyptians from fermented malt), or even zzz (a cartoon sleeping sound) may be the last word. The adjective for zymurgy is zymurgical and a synonym for zymurgy is zymology and a person who studies zymology is a zymologist. Sources: Garrett Oliver (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford, 2011) and World Wide Words (.org), 7 May 2014.

Protein factlet: A word of Greek origin related to zymurgy is enzyme, a noun for various proteins produced by living organisms that function as biochemical catalysts in living organisms. Source: The American Heritage Dictionary (Boston, 1991).

Name factlet: Appropriately, the journal of the American Homebrewers Association, located in Boulder, Colorado, is titled Zymurgy. Source: American Homebrewers Association (.org), 5 May 2014.

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If you enjoy drinking beer and reading beer trivia, you may wish to brew specialty beers. We recommend Midwest Supply in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. for beer-brewing and wine-making kits, ingredients and equipment. Live outside the U.S.? Bongo International will arrange international shipments. is the place to go for hard-to-find books about beer.


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