• meliorate •
Pronunciation: mee-lyê-rayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: Make better, improve.
Notes: Today we get a tip on how to economize our speech. Since most of us tend to say ameliorate with a superfluous initial A, dropping that A saves time and oral energy. No one knows how this A managed to append itself to the original meliorate, only that it did so unnecessarily. This word has a large derivational family, including meliorative, meliorable, melioration, and meliorator. What more could a speaker want?
In Play: You may use ameliorate if you need to draw out the conversation a bit but the initial A isn't necessary: "I don't think jokes will meliorate Sue Pine's mood while she is in traction." Laughter jiggles things around in ways that traction doesn't like. Nothing like a bit of it, though, to meliorate a rainy day: "The weather report this morning shows nothing to meliorate this foul weather in the near future."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from the past participle, melioratus, of the Latin verb meliorare "to improve, make better", a verb based on the comparative adjective melior "better". The stem of this word is related to Latin multus "much, many", visible in such English words as multitude and multiply. The initial A appeared on meliorate in a farmer's letter published in England in 1767, more than 200 years after the word entered English. How long before that it had been pronounced this way, by whom, and for what reason are all unknown. (Susan Lister has immensely meliorated our Good Word series by suggesting a multitude of words as good as this one.)
Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
3 posts • Page 1 of 1
No one knows how this A managed to append itself to the original meliorate, only that it did so unnecessarily.
Perhaps it originated around these h'yar parts (The Blue Ridge Mountains), where we are sometimes:
a fixin' to
"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening all at once. Lately it hasn't been working."
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