• arduous •
Pronunciation: ah(r)-ju-wês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. High, steep, difficult to climb. 2. Difficult to do, demanding and exhausting, requiring great effort. We take the use of this word in the sense of simply "difficult" (He worked arduously on the project) to be the result of misunderstanding its meaning. However, respectable writers use it in this sense.
Notes: Even though today's Good Word comes to us from Latin, all its forms are regular English ones: the noun is arduousness (not, thank heavens, arduosity), as it might well have been, and the adverb, arduously.
In Play: The original meaning of today's word is slowly slipping from our grip: "Mt. Everest is one of the most arduous mountains in the world." The second sense is by far the more common: "The people along the Gulf Coast have begun the arduous task of rebuilding after twin cataclysms named Katrina and Rita." We wish all of them the best of luck in rebuilding their homes and their lives.
Word History: Today's word is a barely disguised version of Latin arduus "high, steep". The original root was something like *erdh-/*ordh- "to grow, be high". This same root went into Greek orthos "straight, right, erect", found in orthography "correct writing" and orthopedic, as in orthopedic shoes that help keep the body erect and growing straight. In Sanskrit it emerged in vardhate "grows, increases" and urdhvah "high".
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- Grand Panjandrum
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