• excruciate •
Pronunciation: ek-skru-shee-eyt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To torment, to inflict severe pain of any kind on someone.
Notes: Today's Good Word is probably most often heard in the redundant phrase excruciating pain. Think about it: this would be a pain that causes severe pain, in other words, painful pain. The participle, excruciating is used freely as an adjective but there is an independent noun, excruciation. The agent noun, excruciator is very rarely used but stands ready if needed.
In Play: While torture applies to systematic physical maltreatment, today's word refers to more casual torment: "Mallory seemed to enjoy excruciating his guests with his accordion." The torment may be mental or physical: "Although Pamela felt quite fashionable at the cotillion, her new shoes excruciated her toes all night."
Word History: Today's word comes from the past participle of Latin excruciare "to torture out, crucify". It is based on ex "out" + cruciare "to crucify", a verb based on crux (cruc-s) "cross", also used by English as the crux of a problem. Since the original root behind crux meant "bent, crooked", you English crook might seen related. However, the [k] sounds would have been reduced to [h] or have vanished in English, so no connection can be drawn. (We must be straight with Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, however, and thank him for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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