• gregarious •
Pronunciation: grê-gæ-ri-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Flocking, herding, tending to live in groups rather than alone, as a gregarious bird species. 2. Proactively sociable, always seeking company, skilled at social navigation and networking.
Notes: Today's Good Word is another IOU adjective like serious, curious. Its adverb, gregariously, and noun, gregariousness, are perfectly straightforward derivations. The meaning of the verb, gregarize, that seems to underlie this word, on the other hand, has contracted and now refers only to the swarming of insects—locusts, in particular.
In Play: Gregariousness is on the brink of obnoxiousness and may have positive or negative connotations: "Gail Avent admits that her success is more the result of her gregarious socializing than experience or talent." It is the context that makes this adjective pejorative: "Sue Pine is so gregarious that all the men at the office are in love with her and let her get away with murder."
Word History: Today's Good Word is no more than a slight modification of Latin gregarius "belonging to a flock", an adjective based on grex (greg-s) "flock, herd". The root here is also found in congregate, egregious, and the name Gregory, popular among popes who are often perceived as the shepherd of a flock. Egregious "flagrantly bad" is made up of ex "out(side)" + greg- "outside the flock". The Latin root is probably a duplicated form of the Proto-Indo-European root *ger- "to collect". This root wended its way through the Germanic languages to English cram. It turns up in Greek agora "marketplace" which, like our own Alpha Agora, was a social gathering place.
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