• blasphemy •
Pronunciation: blæs-fê-mi • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A sacrilege, an irreverent act or slanderous utterance aimed at something considered holy or sacred.
Notes: Today's Good Word is based on a verb, to blaspheme, which means to utter something or act in such a way that contradicts holy writ or violates some sacred law, place, creed, etc. It comes with a substantial lexical family, including an adjective, blasphemous, and a personal noun, blasphemer.
In Play: The assumption is that the object of blasphemy is holy, sacrosanct: "His way of life is blasphemy against God." However, "holy, sacrosanct" may be taken metaphorically: "I think George Mopsolotovos would consider it blasphemy were any of his daughters to marry a non-Greek."
Word History: Today's Good Word in Middle English was blasfemie from Latin blasphemia. This word was borrowed from Greek blasphemi, the noun from blasphemein "to blaspheme". Blasphemein is a compound verb that originally meant "to speak evil". Its root is made up of blas "evil" + pheme "speech". The latter word is related to phone "voice, sound", visible in myriad English borrowings, such as telephone and phonetics. It comes from the same Proto-Indo-European source as Latin fari "to speak", which led to fama "fame" and fatum "prophecy, doom", coming from the days when oracles were thought to determine your fate. Greek blas comes from the same PIE word as Latin malus "bad", found in such borrowings from French and Latin as malice, malevolent and dismal. (It would be blasphemy not to credit Perry Lassiter, Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's Good Word, so here goes: Thanks, Perry.)