• calvous •
Pronunciation: kæl-vês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Notes: This word is rare but legal—it is still in the Random House dictionary. The noun, meaning "baldness", is calvity and is found in the Oxford English dictionary. (Random House lists calvities as the noun; however, we should keep in mind that calvity has no plural.)
In Play: Although we strongly advocate creative word selection for clearer speech, there are times when a bit of misguidance is the humane thing to do. If you say something like, "You'll like M. T. Head, Hetty; he is quite a calvous guy," your friend may keep an eye on Fred's legs and miss the fact that he is bald. Americans in the US are constantly looking for euphemisms for words we find embarrassing, so here is a new one: "Either Les Hair's forehead is growing or he is getting a bit calvous."
Word History: The Latin word calvus "bald", from which today's Good Word was borrowed, is directly related to German kahl "bald, naked". It may go back to the same root that turns up in Serbian as glava and Russian as golova "head", thought the semantics here is a bit shaky. For sure it has remained in the Romance languages, where calvo still means "bald" in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
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