• fastidious •
Pronunciation: fês-ti-di-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: You don't have to be fast to be fastidious. Today's Good Word means: 1. Easily disgusted, squeamish, hypersensitive to imperfection in matters of taste and cleanliness. 2. (Microbiology) Complicated in feeding and nutritional needs.
Notes: Fastidious, meticulous, and punctilious are near synonyms, but careful speakers and writers distinguish them in use. Meticulous implies a general hypersensitive attention to details, as a meticulous accountant who checks and rechecks all his figures. Punctilious most often refers to hypersensitive attention to rules of conduct, as a chairman who is punctilious in his observance of Robert's Rules of Order. Our word, fastidious, more generally applies to matters of taste and cleanliness and implies squeamishness to imperfection, as someone might keep a fastidious home or dress fastidiously. The adverb is fastidiously and the noun is fastidiousness. If you want to have some fun, you might try fastidiosity; you won't be the first.
In Play: It is always safe to express attention to detail in matters of propriety and cleanliness with today's Good Word: "Barbie Dahl always set a fastidious table, with expensive settings on a spotless white tablecloth." As with all words, though, broadening the meaning of this word is where the fun lies: "William Arami fastidiously ogled the bridesmaids in hopes of finding a hint of the woman he himself might marry."
Word History: In Middle English today's Good Word meant "squeamish, haughty", a meaning close to the original Latin adjective fastidiosus, which came from fastidium "nausea, squeamishness, loathing". This noun would seem to be based on fastus "pride, arrogance" + taedium "weariness", the source of English tedium and, ultimately, tedious. Neither of the roots of these two words appears in other Indo-European languages, which leaves a material curtain of mystery around both. (Today we thank Loren Baldwin, whose fastidious taste in words led to the suggestion that we run this one as today's Good Word.)