• diatribe •
Pronunciation: dai-ê-traib • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A tirade, a long, abusive denunciation of someone or something, a protracted harangue.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan for no apparent reason. It comes even without an adjective according to the dictionaries, not even diatribal, which is used about 4500 times on the Web. We could use this word in expressions like diatribal soapbox, diatribal revenge, or diatribal rampage. If you want to use diatribal, you get the adverb diatribally free.
In Play: Diatribes are usually angry, like the one reported here: "When I offered Adam Bahm a hamburger, he exploded in a diatribe, the likes of which I'd never heard, against the practices of meat producers." A diatribe, like a tirade, is long and furious: "Donny Brooke sat across from me, his lips white and teeth set, as though holding back a diatribe against all that was being said at the table."
Word History: Today's word English was acquired via French from Latin diatriba "learned discourse", from Greek diatribe "wearing away time, study, discourse". This word came from diatribein "to wear away, waste time", composed of dia "through, thorough" + tribein "to rub"—and diatribes rub all of us the wrong way. The root of tribein comes from an ancient root ter- or simply tr-. In Russian we see the original root in teret' "to rub". It turns up in Latin terere "to rub (away), thresh". The same root came down through its Germanic ancestors to English as thresh and thread, which we used to make by rubbing two fingers together.