• malediction •
Pronunciation: mæl-ê-dik-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A curse, an invocation of evil upon someone or something, profane or otherwise. 2. An act of vicious slander.
Notes: Today's is a fairly straightforward Latin loan word. It offers a choice of adjectives, maledictory or maledictive, each with an adverb created by simply adding -ly. The original underlying verb, to maledict "to curse", is no longer used by normal mortals but that does not preclude our using it if the occasion arises.
In Play: This Good Word is a loftier substitute for curse: "Fairleigh Lowe loosed an avalanche of maledictions on his colleague, who pulled the chair out from under him at work." However, it can also be used as a replacement for slander: "All my wife's complaints are empty maledictions against me, motivated, no doubt, by her jealousy of my perfection."
Word History: Today's word comes from a Latin compound noun, maledictio(n-) "evil-speaking, curse", based on male "badly" + dictio(n) "saying, speaking". The root of the first word, male is also in malady, malice, and malaria (which originally meant "bad air"). The root of the second word, dictio(n), not only was borrowed into English as diction, but the original root, *deik- "point, show", developed directly through Old English into English teach. Another variant of it ended up as English toe and Latin digitus "finger". (Today we must point a finger or toe to the Brazilian Dude of the Alpha Agora, Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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