• fusty •
Pronunciation: fês-tee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Musty, moldy, stale-smelling, smelling of mildew and decay. 2. Old-fashioned, outdated, antique, characterized by old age and neglect, old-fogeyish.
Notes: This word goes back to a Latin word meaning "stick, cudgel"; some of its relatives retain this sense. For example, fustigate means "to cudgel, beat with a stick". The now defunct noun this adjective comes from, fust, had two meanings, "wine barrel" and "the smell of a moldy wine barrel". The connection between the two will emerge in the Word History. The adverb, should you ever need it, is fustily, and the noun, fustiness.
In Play: Today's Good Word is used most widely to indicate a moldy smell: "For days after the party the frat house was fusty from the stale beer spilled everywhere." However, it can be used in a broadened sense of "old-fashioned, out of style": "In college Andy Belham wasted his time on fusty subjects like Latin and Greek, medieval philosophy, and 17th century literature."
Word History: Middle English picked up this word from Old French fust "piece of wood", and what pieces of wood went into making, "wine cask". Fust passed down from Latin fustis "stick, club, cudgel." Latin fustis comes from the same PIE word that produced bush in English. It also went into the making of beat and all the words related to it, such as batter, baste, and the verb butt. (The Latin word battuere "beat, strike", which is given in many dictionaries as the immediate source of batter, was borrowed from a Germanic language.) As mentioned before, today's Good Word is unrelated to fustian. (We can thank Margie Sved, whose vocabulary is always fresh and never fusty, for today's Good Word.)