• vulgar •
Pronunciation: vêl-gêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Of the unwashed masses, plebian, related to common people, the riff-raff, the hoi-polloi. 2. Common, base, ordinary. 3. Bawdy, foul, immodest, immoral, impure, indecent, indelicate, lascivious, lecherous, lewd, licentious, lubricous, lurid, obscene, offensive, profane, profligate, prurient, ribald, salacious, shameful, shameless, vile, wanton.
Notes: All the words we have for the third sense of today's Good Word makes us wonder why we had to corrupt a perfectly good word to create another. But so it goes. Over the centuries this word's good meaning has slowly tumbled one to a pejorative one. The noun for this word is vulgarity and a vulgar word is a vulgarism.
In Play: I hear today's bad Good Word used most often as a synonym of profane: "I was shocked to hear Ben de Hellenbaque use vulgar language around such proper ladies." However, the sense of commonplace remains: "Maud Lynn Dresser is a woman of vulgar tastes, especially in clothes."
Word History: Today's word comes from Latin vulgaris "related to common people", from vulgus "people, the masses, a crowd". Latin inherited it from the Proto-Indo-European root *welg- "to crowd, throng". which turned up in Sanskrit as vargah "division, group". It kept its original meaning in the Germanic languages: German Volk "people", as in Volkswagen "car of the people", and English folk. (Today's rather tawdry Good Word was suggested by Ella Minnow Pea of Smoketown, Pennsylvania.)