• erudition •
Pronunciation: er-ê-di-shên or er-yê-di-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Deep, profound, scholarly knowledge of a subject.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun from the adjective erudite "deeply knowledgeable", as would be an erudite scholar. In RP, Received Pronunciation (that of the very erudite British upper class), the U is fully pronounced: [e-ru-di-shên]. This pronunciation is also acceptable elsewhere in the English-speaking world.
In Play: Erudition refers to profound knowledge obtained through persistent lucubration at excellent educational institutions: "President Obama is a man of considerable erudition: he graduated from Columbia and Harvard Universities, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. However, beware of those who attempt to fake erudition: "I would expect a person of your erudition to know that Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia, not Slovenia."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the English version of the Latin action noun, eruditio(n) "polishing, education". from the verb erudire "to polish, hone, educate". The verb is based on the phrase ex "out of" + rudis "rough, raw, unfinished", the ultimate origin of the English word rude. As you can see, the original sense of this word is to prepare, to lead out of a rough, raw state. It is tempting to see a kinship with Latin crudus "raw, uncooked, unprepared", but the loss of an initial C in Latin would be inexplicable. (Today we thank the most erudite Eric Berntson for his suggestion of this lexical rubric of the overeducated.)
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