• transitory •
Pronunciation: træn-zê-to-ree • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Passing quickly, momentary, lasting only briefly, short-lived, not permanent.
Notes: Today's Good Word belongs to a huge extended family. In addition to its adverb, transitorily, a near synonym transient, and a noun, transitoriness. It is related to transit, transition, transitive, and a host of others. Remember to change the Y to I before the suffixes -ly and -ness.
In Play: We do find situations even around the house for the literal sense of today's Good Word: "Ice cream leads an extremely transitory existence in my refrigerator. Every carton I buy melts away as though it were left outside." This word is poetic, though, and sounds better in figurative usage: "Spring and fall are the most transitory seasons of the year."
Word History: Today's is obviously another word we snitched when French wasn't looking. French inherited it from Latin as it was spoken ages ago in France. It is based on the preposition trans "across, through" + ire "to go". The root of ire is it-, also visible in words like itinerary and (re)iterate. It is very close to the Russian root id-, seen in idti "to go", also found in other Slavic languages like Polish, Czech, and Serbian. (We are glad that Tim Ward's interest in sending us excellent Good Words like today's is not transitory but has continued for a long time.)