• boisterous •
Pronunciation: boi-stê-rês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Loud, noisy, raucous. 2. Rough, violent, tumultuous, highly agitated, out of control.
Notes: Just because boys are more likely than girls to be boisterous, today's word is nonetheless spelled boisterous and not boysterous. The noun for this adjective is boisterousness, and the adverb, boisterously.
In Play: The fundamental sense of boisterous is "loud, noisy": "May Hemme's wake became so boisterous, the neighbors called the police to calm things down." However, that sense may be extended to "rough, tumultuous" and applied to things inhuman: "Harley looked forward to a vacation at the beach for months, but when he arrived the surf was so boisterous as to cool his appetite for a swim."
Word History: Boisterous is used in the same sense as the earlier Anglo-French boistous "rough, rude, raucus". Even though we have only indirect evidence of it, boist "rough, crude, violent" must have existed at some time in the past. We find it underlying boistous, and its adverbial equivalent, boistly, appears twice in The Tale of Beryn (c. 1460). If the adjective did exist, the comparative would have been boister "more raucous". At that point all that is needed is the adjective suffix -ous—the same suffix added directly to the root to produce boistous—to get to today's word. The origin of boist is a different matter. We find bwystus "wild, ferocious" in 14th century Welsh. The implication here is that there existed a noun bwyst, which would point to Latin bestia "beast" as the ultimate source. This brings us rather far out on the limb of speculation; better stop here. (We are happy for the return to the Alpha Agora of the decidedly unboisterous Dr. Margie Sved, and glad she brought with her today's Good Word.)