• superfluous •
Pronunciation: su-pêr-flu-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Excessive, more than is necessary, extra and unnecessary.
Notes: You may use today's word adverbially if you cap it off with the usual suffix, -ly: superfluously. The long noun, superfluousness is more awkward than the older, more compact superfluity [sup-êr-flu-i-ti]. The latter noun also exhibits a more graceful plural form: superfluities.
In Play: We are entering a season in which superfluity is acceptable. We tend to become excessive with food, presents, and generosity: "I love the Christmas decorations on your house but I think the lights on all the family's clothes are a bit superfluous." It is a word you can use anywhere: "No, your father and I think that hiring a maid would be superfluous so long as you and your brother are capable of movement."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin superfluus "overflowing", the adjective from superfluere "to overflow", from super "over" + fluere "to flow". Super comes from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root that also developed into Greek hyper with the same meaning (hypersensitive, hyperactive). We would expect the PIE [p] to become [f] in English, so Old English ofer which later became over does not surprise us. The root for flu- "flow" comes from PIE bhleu- "to swell, well up, flow". It turned into English blow, bloat, and bladder as various suffixes accumulated over the years. (It would certainly not be superfluous to thank Mark Bailey for suggesting today's extremely Good Word.)
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