Recently, I was in a yoga class, and the instructor used the word dethaw (repeatedly) to describe what our bodies do during the warm-up of spring. Instead of relaxing and tuning the world out, as I usually do during my yoga practice, I started stressing over the question, “Is dethaw really a word?”
We thaw or defrost a frozen turkey, but do we dethaw a turkey? A quick check in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary shows that “the word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary.” Yes. Vindicated.
However, Vocabulary.com defines dethaw as “to become or cause to become soft or liquid.” Isn’t that what thaw means?!
I suspect it’s a confusing conjunction of the words defrost and thaw. If thaw and defrost mean to go from a frozen to a liquid state, then logic dictates that dethaw would mean the opposite—to refreeze.
But it surprised me to learn that unthaw is actually correct. To me, it’s as equally confusing as dethaw. To address my concern, Merriam-Webster Dictionary notes:
Although unthaw as a synonym of thaw is sometimes cited as an illogical error, it has persisted in occasional use for more than four centuries. It occurs in both American and British English.
Well, I am going to continue to just say thaw—not dethaw, not unthaw—just thaw. Why not?