• viscous •
Pronunciation: vis-kês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Thick, mucilaginous, flowing very, very slowly, like molasses; syrupy. 2. Sticky, gooey, viscid.
Notes: I was asked to remind us not to confuse today's word with vicious. I'm not sure how anyone could confuse the pronunciation of these two in speech, but I suppose the spelling of the two is similar. The spelling viscuous, and pronunciation vis-kyu-ês, are now considered archaic. (That's the way I learned it. What does that say about my age?) The noun is viscosity and the adverb, viscously
In Play: The basic meaning of today's Good Word describes a slow-moving liquid: "The coffee was so strong that it was almost viscous." Since so many viscous liquids are sticky as well, for example, molasses, syrup, various oils, the word viscously picked this meaning up, too: "I have stepped on something viscous; warm chewing gum, probably."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes via French from Late Latin viscosus "sticky". This adjective came from Classical Latin viscum "something sticky, birdlime from mistletoe, mistletoe". A word related to viscum was viscus "internal organ, gut". English borrowed the plural of this word, viscera "internal organs, guts" as an adjective, visceral. Another related word is virus "poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid" which, of course, English borrowed without modifying it in any way. The adjective for virus in Latin was virulentus "poisonous", whose form and meaning we modified to get virulent. (Today we thank Judy Elb for the kindness of remembering us when she saw what was intended as today's Good Word spelled vicious.)
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I had to smile at your pronunciation (vis-kyu-es) because that's the way I had to learn it in order to know how to spell it correctly. I still want to pronounce it that way to this day. I had to do a similar thing with the word "Wednesday". I mentally pronounced it Wed-ness-day in order to remember how to spell it correctly. I still do that! Old habits die hard.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I'm going to change myself. -- Rumi
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Dr. Goodword wrote:The spelling viscuous, and pronunciation vis-kyu-ês, are now considered archaic.
Was that ever the standard spelling? It seems irregular. One would expect "viscous", not "viscuous", from viscosus.
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