• propitious •
Pronunciation: prê-pi-shês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Offering favorable circumstances, rife with opportunities. 2. Fortunate, lucky, especially appropriate.
Notes: Although similar in meaning to auspicious, auspicious means "presaging a successful outcome", while propitious describes on-going favorable circumstances. Propitiousness is the noun for today's word. The verb propitiate "to make (more) favorable, win the favor of" has its own family: propitiation, propitiative, propitiatory, and so on.
In Play: A propitious occasion is one that presents opportunities we should not overlook: "The day after Maureen receives her promotion might be a propitious moment for us to ask her for a raise." Anything that improves your odds for success (or survival) may be called propitious: "Now might be a propitious moment for a long bike ride: before dad gets home and finds out we burned out one of his stereo speakers."
Word History: Today's Good Word was snitched from Latin propitius "well-disposed, favorably inclined", the mood of the gods on propitious occasions. The Latin word is composed of the prefix pro- "to, forward, toward" + petere "to travel to, to seek". The root of this word, pet-, is the Proto-Indo-European root pet- "flow, fly" with little change. The PIE root is the basis of English feather, very useful in flying. It is also responsible for the flowing Greek word potamos "river", prominent in the word hippopotamus, literally, "river horse". Without its vowel, this root also appears in the word pterodactyl "wing-fingered (flying reptile)", from the Greek words pteron "wing" + dactylos "finger".