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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:45 pm

• prodigious •

Pronunciation: prê-di-jês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Huge, enormous. 2. Extraordinary, excellent, outstanding.

Notes: The sound and spelling of today's Good Word are obviously related to prodigy, but beware: the meaning doesn't! Although prodigy refers to someone with a prodigious talent, in the 18th century, the adverb of this word, prodigiously, assumed the guise of an intensifier with a meaning no more than that of very. The result has been the meanings we see above today.

In Play: The sense of "huge, enormous" is usually used in the abstract with this word: "Matilda is a wonderful conversationalist but beware: she can manufacture a prodigious amount of poppycock in conversations." This word can also substitute for "excellent" or "outstanding": "Laurencio did a prodigious job in organizing the Finnegan Falls Fog Festival this year, right down to the pea-soup fog! I don't know how he arranged that."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin prodigiosus "unnatural, strange. wonderful" from prodigium "an omen, sign, portent". Prodigium is also the source of prodigy. It is probably the remains of a derivation based on ancient Proto-Indo-European pro "before, ahead" + ag- " say, speak" + ium, neuter noun suffix—with an unexplained D in between. If so, today's word is related to English adage, which comes, via French, from Latin adagium "adage", based on ad "(up)to" + ag- "say".
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Postby Stargzer » Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:58 pm

It's a different Latin root that gives us Prodigal:

c.1450, back-formation from prodigiality (1340), from O.Fr. prodigalite (13c.), from L.L. prodigalitatem (nom. prodigalitas) "wastefulness," from L. prodigus "wasteful," from prodigere "drive away, waste," from pro- "forth" + agere "to drive" (see act). First ref. is to prodigial son, from Vulgate L. filius prodigus (Luke xv.11-32).

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Postby dougsmit » Sun Jan 28, 2007 8:06 am

I would have appreciated a more full explanation in 'Notes' of why "the meaning doesn't". All these words imply excess or more than usual in the same sense of the word lavish suggesting good 'poured' over something in prodigious quantity.

Perhaps the problem is that there are so many ways to say something that it is hard to know when we have a link or when we have built a bridge. Prodigious and prodigal are different but both carry a sense of excess.
Doug Smith

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