Word of Week (WOW) – Helicoid

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. and is a fun way to learn new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

This is my second time through the alphabet and I’m looking at the letter H this week. Last time round I did the word hirsute.

So here is my WOW for this week: 





hel•i•coid  [hɛlɪˌkɔɪd]


(Pronunciation of this word is different for the U.K. and U.S.)

U.K. : hee-li-koid

U.S. : hel-i-koid

Part of Speech


Related Forms:

Adjective: helicoidal

Adverb: helicoidally


  1. Adjective: coiled or curving like a spiral:
Grapevine Snail by Jurgen Schoner
Grapevine Snail by Jurgen Schoner: Wikimedia Commons

2. Noun: (geometry) a warped surface generated by a straight line moving so as to cut or touch a fixed helix.

Animation of Helicoid. Author: 09glasgow09 Wikimedia Commons
Animation of Helicoid. Author: 09glasgow09 Wikimedia Commons

Word Origin:

  • Late 17th century (1690-1700) from Greek helikoeidēs ‘of spiral form’, from helixhelik / helic + oid (where oid means resembling or like)


circular, circling, circumvoluted, spiral, corkscrew, curled, cochlear, helical, tendrillar, whorled, screw-shaped


straight, uncurling, unwinding

Use in a Sentence:

  1.   Bill wandered around his garden, his camera in his hand. The cucumber tendrils that curled in a delicate helicoid were simply too perfect to be ignored.
"Kurgiväät" by Robert Reisman (WooteleF) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kurgiv%C3%A4%C3%A4t.jpg#/media/File:Kurgiv%C3%A4%C3%A4t.jpg
Cucumber tendril. Photographer: Robert Reisman  Wikimedia Commons

2. The staicase in the old building had been designed like a never-ending helicoid:

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Image courtesy of Pixabay

3. For this I have written a short story. It mght be best for anyone who detests physical geography to just ignore it.  🙂

Meander in Ashes Hollow. Author S, Knights.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meander_in_Ashes_Hollow.jpg
Meander in Ashes Hollow. Author S. Knights: Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Anderson gestured to the meander along a section of the winding stream the Year 10 students had come to study as part of their geography field work.

‘Right then,’ he started, ‘who can tell me how the helicoidal flow of the river contributes to the development of a meander?’

Fifteen year old Matthew Johnson raised his hand. ‘Helicoidal flow means the way the water flows in spirals, a bit like a corkscrew, Sir.’

‘OK… good so far, Matthew.  Now we know what helicoidal flow means. So how can we apply that knowledge to explain how it helps the development of a meander?’

Mary Scrimshaw tentatively raised her hand. ‘It’s to do with the way the surface flow of the water hits the outer, steeper bank, over there,’ she said, pointing across the stream, ‘helping to further erode it. Then the water sort of does a somersault as it bounces off it…’ She hesitated as a few students giggled at the idea of the water doing a somersault.

‘Excellent, Mary,’ Mr Anderson said with an encouraging smile. ‘The somersault you describe is due to the helicoidal motion of the water. Anything more to add…?

Mary took a breath. ‘The water that hits the outer bank then flows along the river bed – eroding more material as it goes, making the middle of the meander quite deep.  Then, when this eroded … er … sediment reaches the opposite bank – the inside bank, that is, where the current is slower – the river dumps it. This makes a sort of little beach on that side.’

Mr. Anderson beamed. ‘Wonderful, Mary… Now, would someone else tell us what we call this area that Mary described as like a ‘little beach’.

‘It’s a slip-off slope’, Jamie Rogers, blurted, looking pleased with himself for knowing that.

‘Hand up, next time James,’ Mr Anderson reproved. ‘But you’re right, a slip-off slope it is.

‘Now, before you begin your sketches, I need to remind you that all this is due to the helicoidal flow and I’d like your completed cross-sections that accompany your sketch to clearly illustrate how that works…’


I must confess that I don’t find helicoid a particularly attractive word. I’d much prefer to use helical or spiral in my writing. Helicoid works very well in maths and geography, though. And, after all, my WOW posts are not just restricted to beautiful words – much as we all like them. Many words in our vocabulary are not lovely… but certainly just as important.

If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page

Word Treasure

31 thoughts on “Word of Week (WOW) – Helicoid

    1. I’m so glad you told me about the need for links, Andy. I was totally ignorant of that. I looked it up after you mentioned it and just hoped I’d got it right this time. Thank you for liking my story. It seemed a reasonable way to explain helicoidal flow. I’ve stood on many such river banks with students in my time, spouting my stuff! .:)

      1. I absolutely love all aspects of physical geography, Andy. And I still collect rock and fossil samples whenever I can. I’m sure you’ll understand that, being into geology yourself. Earth history is totally fascinating and beautiful landscapes are to die for… (not literally, of course!). 🙂

      2. I understand completely Millie 🙂 My wife is thankful for the invention of digital cameras, I now more often than not, just photo the rock samples that fascinate me!!! The garden was filling up with sedimentary structures and fossils 🙂 My parents were pleased when I left home back in the eighties, they used to worry that my rock collection would cause my bedroom floor to collapse 🙂

      3. What parents have to put up with! I take it you collected rather large samples? Mine are small pieces, but big enough for studying, if need be. I can understand you wife being thankful for your photography skills. 🙂

      4. I tend to be interested in rock structures, which by their very nature, tend to be found in larger rock samples (or sides of cliffs!!!!). The few minerals I have got, my wife really likes 🙂

      5. Yes… I see your problem there. Rock structures aren’t really collectables, in the general sense, are they> Photos might just be better in that case… Lol. 😀

    1. Wow, thank you for that great comment! I’ve been doing these WOW posts for a while now, and have gradually developed them into the best way I can to illusrtate the word. The story at the end is quite a new thing – I used to just do 2 or 3 different sentences. I do enjoy writing little stories, though. And yes, I really miss being in a classroom…or on a riverbank. 🙂

    1. Yes, spiral is a nice, easy word. As I said on my post, helicoid is well suited for use in geography or geometry, but I’d prefer spiral in other writing. Thanks for commenting. Peggy.

  1. Fascinating post, Millie. Great photos and excellent story that took me back to the stream of my childhood – but now I know why it was deep in some parts and shallow in others. I think I’d like to go back to school with you as my teacher. 🙂

    1. Thank you for that, Irina! I do love geography and miss all the field trips I used to go on, as well as general classroom teaching. I’m far too old now, so there’s no point in worrying about it. I’m enjoying what I do now, of course, and will be very happy once I’ve finished this trilogy. I hope your writing is going well, too.
      After next week I’ll be taking a little blogging break – just for a few weeks – so I can really push on with my writing. I’ll be back over Christmas, if not before. I have a few posts ‘ready to go’ from places we’ve visited this year, but I’ll keep them on hold for a while. 🙂

  2. I confess when I read the title I thought “she’s run out of real words and now she’s making them up” :-).
    This one sounds a bit too close to “haemorrhoid” for my liking hee hee.

      1. Isn’t it just! If you read Ali’s flash fiction stories, you get used to his wacky sense of humour. His stories are a hoot. It’s so nice to know people who can see the funny side of life. 🙂

    1. Sometimes I feel like making words up, especially when I can’t find suitable pics to illustrate the words I like! And I agree, helicoid is an odd word. It does sound rather like haemorrhoid… and fibroid, come to think of it. Definitely veering towards the visceral . . . Thank you for that very astute comment, Ali. Much appreciated. 😀

    1. I don’t think helicoid is an attractive word at all. It’s fine for mathematical and geographical use, but in creative writing, I’d probably give it a wide berth. Helicoidal is the alternative adjective, and it has a slightly softer sound. But I probably woundn’t even use that to describe the swirlng /spiralling descent of a snowflake. 🙂 Still, helicoid has its place, so if you find yourself suddenly in charge of the English language, you really must be nice to some words … After all, it isn’t their fault they were born plain ugly. 😀

    1. Thank you, inese. I agree, helicoid seems hard somehow, and too abrupt. It’s definitely not a pretty word. But, I suppose, not all the words in the dictionary are pretty. I’ve been talking about helicoidal flow in rivers for years, so I suppose it was just on my mind. Once a geographer, always a geographer, as they say… 🙂

      1. Helicoidal sounds quite normal. I love when people talk professional language. Even if I miss something, I can guess, because it all makes sense.

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