• imbrue •
Pronunciation: im-bru • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To soak, steep in, or saturate. 2. To discolor or stain.
Notes: If you prefer, you can spell today's Good Word embrue as well. The noun is imbruement or embruement. It is easy to confuse this word with imbue "to saturate thoroughly". Imbrue doesn't imply quite the thoroughness of the soaking that imbue does and imbue doesn't suggest staining, as does imbrue. You can be imbued with love for your country (not imbrued) but imbrued (stained) with the guilt of some crime.
In Play: This word is generally used as a participle "imbrued with" as, "Vincent singed his eyebrows when he tried to start the charcoal in his barbie with a rag imbrued with gasoline." Metaphorically, imbrue is most closely associated with blood, "The hands of Hitler were imbrued with the blood of millions of innocent victims."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French embreuver "soil, spatter" from Latin *imbiberare, comprising in- "in" + Late Latin biber "beverage" (from Classical Latin bibere "to drink"). The Latin verb bibere was formed from the PIE root *poi-/*pei-, which has reappeared in Russian Poi! "Drink!" from pit' "to drink". In Latin, however, after the [p] had changed to [b], the stem was reduplicated, that is, the root was copied on itself as a prefix: *bi- > bibi+ere with the eventually dropping out. Later on, one of the [b]s turned into a [v], when the suffix -age was added to it, giving us Old French [i]buverage, which English captured for its beverage.
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Writing an «[i ]» without leaving a space after the vowel led to an unfortunate distortion in the latter part of Dr Goodword's text, supra, but the following is, I believe, what he was trying to tell us....
... with the [i ] eventually dropping out. Later on, one of the [b]s turned into a [v], when the suffix -age was added to it, giving us Old French buverage, which English captured for its beverage.
- M. Henri Day
- Grand Panjandrum
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