• predicate •
Pronunciation: pred-ê- kayt, -kêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, Noun
Meaning: 1. (Verb) To base, establish, or found. 2. (Verb) To assert, state, or affirm. 3. (Noun) That which is stated about the subject of a sentence, for example, in the sentence, "The man bit the dog", "bit the dog" is the predicate.
Notes: What unites all the meanings of today's Good Word is that it is what we say about something else. The noun accompanying today's Good Word is predication and the adjective is predicative. The interesting thing about this word is its relation to predicament. Predicament once referred to the class of all things which share the same predicate, about which the same thing may be said—its class. "This plant is in the same predicament with Avena strigosa," once made sense. How this word's meaning strayed so far off course is anyone's guess.
In Play: I love words that have two different meanings both of which we can fit in a sentence: "On what do you predicate (sense 1) your predication (sense 2) that the Earth is flat?" The first meaning seems to be the more popular one these days, though: "I predicate my assumption on past experience that Mom will be displeased with this."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from (where else?) Latin praedicatum "(what is) said of the subject", the past participle of praedicare "to say, assert, proclaim publicly". This word is made up of prae- "forth, before" + dicare "to proclaim", from stem of dicere "to speak, to say". The noun of this word lies beneath several Latin words English helped itself to, first and foremost, to dictio(n) "a saying, expression, word", which English borrowed as diction. Other words we see this root in, include dictionary, predict, and addict. The original word that Latin inherited from Proto-Indo-European apparently meant "show" or "indicate" (there it is again!), for English inherited it directly as teach. We also see a variant in Latin digitus "finger", the ultimate indicator. This word didn't escape the English lexical net; we borrowed both digit and the adjective digital. (We can predicate our gratitude to Kay Summers upon her suggestion of today's very Good Word.)