June 1, 2005
• lugubrious •
Pronunciation: lê-gu-bree-yês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Excessively mournful, terribly gloomy, exaggeratedly depressed or depressive.
Notes: This Good Word sounds so mournful that it approaches the state of onomatopoeia. Since the second [u] is accented, you may elongate it as lugubriously as befits the occasion. This word resonates sympathetically with the name of the ever lugubrious horror film actor of the 30s, Bela Lugosi, though the two words are unrelated. (Lugosi's name was taken from the Lugos River near his birthplace in Hungary.) The adverb is lugubriously and either lugubriousness or lugubriosity will serve as nouns.
In Play: Different things tip people into depressions. Just remember that today's word refers to an exaggerated depression: "The overly fashion-conscious Helen Highwater has slipped into a positively lugubrious mood since discovering that she can no longer fit into a size 6 dress." However, we would never send you a word that couldn't be used around the house: "The family cat, Dimwit, has done nothing but mope around the house lugubriously since we had him fixed."
Word History: Today's rather sad little word comes from Latin lugubris "mournful, sad", derived from the verb, lugere "to mourn". The ultimate root was Proto-Indo-European *leug- "break", also the source of Greek lugros "sore; mournful" and Albanian lungë "a sore, an ulcer". In German the stem devolved into Lücke "breach" and Loch "hole." In Sanskrit, where [l] regularly became [r], roga meant both "breaking" and "illness". This suggests a semantic connection between being physically broken and illness, and the sadness brought on by illness. (We are not the least lugubrious over the fact that Flaminus suggested today's word in the Alpha Agora.)