I know what a velodrome is. We saw some of the racing broadcast the other day from the Olympic Park in Stratford. The francophiles amongst us might recognise ‘velo’ from the French word meaning bicycle. So a velodrome is a place for racing bikes.

 Meanwhile, an aerodrome denotes a place where aeroplanes take off and land. Now, we did think that a ‘drome’ might be a place where you keep things – bikes in a velodrome, aeroplanes at an aerodrome etc. What was new to me was to discover that the dictionary definition suggests that an aerodrome is a place for racing – although the word has come to mean an airfield for light aircraft. The suffix ‘-drome’, according to the dictionary, means a place for running or racing.

It can also be used to show that something runs (or goes) a particular way. The example given is ‘palindrome’ which means that a word reads the same forwards and backwards. The word ‘level’ and the phrase ‘Madam I’m Adam’, are two examples.

Another surprise came from the word Dromedary – a type of camel (it’s the one with one hump). It turns out that it is a breed “trained for riding or racing”. The ‘drome’ bit of dromedary indicates the connection with running or racing.

So the answer to my original question is that a ‘drome’ is a place for running and/or racing. It implies movement. So an aerodrome is only really an aerodrome if aeroplanes are taking off, landing, and generally flying. A velodrome is only properly a velodrome if someone is riding a bike round the track.

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