• velleity •
Pronunciation: vê-lee-ê-tee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The slightest hint of a desire or wish, an inclination.
Notes: Today's Good Word is yet another lexical orphan, a word without any derivational family. We do find copies of it in all the Romance languages: Italian velleità, Spanish veleidad, and Portuguese veleidade.
In Play: Remember, a velleity is only the hint of a wish or desire: "I don't have the faintest velleity to go out with Clara Sill, let alone marry her." Velleities abound in higher places: "Congress doesn't seem to have the slightest velleity to get to work on the nation's problems."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin velleitas, a derivation of velle "to wish, want". It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root, wel-/wol- "wish, will", which had two forms for reasons that remain mysterious. Anyway, both developed in German as wollen "to want", but ich will "I want". Only the one with the E arrived in Old English and resulted in will in all its various senses. The PIE word came to Latin, too, in both forms. The O-form ended up in voluntarius "voluntary, freely desiring", voluptuosus "bringing pleasure, the desirous", and malevolen(t)s "malevolent, ill-wishing"—all of which were borrowed by English, either directly or via French. (We have much more than a velleity to thank Roger A. Meyer for thinking of alphaDictionary when he came across today's very Good Word.)