• inexpugnable •
Pronunciation: in-ek-spêg-nê-bêl, in-ek-spyu-nê-bêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Impossible to be forcibly overcome, unassailable, unbreachable, impregnable, unconquerable.
Notes: Today's Good Word is almost a lexical orphan. I say "almost" because a few dictionaries do list expugnable "capable of being overcome by force". Be careful to keep your Gs and Ns straight. Some dictionaries fail to do so and confuse expugn with expunge, and define it as "unable to be expunged". Our adjective is derived from the verb expugn [ek-spyun]. Most dictionaries list only the first pronunciation of inexpugnable, but if you use the verb, the second is a consistent possibility. The noun is inexpugnability and the adverb, inexpugnably, however you pronounce them.
In Play: First, let's deal with the literal meaning: "Arthur found the clay on his lot inexpugnable, so he built a house without a basement." Now, let's play a bit with today's Good Word: "Friedrich clung to that inexpugnable belief of his that the Earth is flat."
Word History: This word is fun to disassemble. It was borrowed from Old French, which inherited it from Latin inexpugnabilis, composed of in- "not" + expugnabilis "capable of being overcome". Expugnabilis was built on expugnare, which itself may be raveled into ex- "out, completely" + pugnare "to fight". At this point we can see how English came upon pugnacious. Less obvious are the origins of impugn, from Latin impugnare "to attack, assail", also from the root pugn-. Pygmy goes back to the same root. This word originated in Ancient Greek from the word pygmaios "pygmy", from pygme "fist", but also a measure from the knuckles to the elbow. (Now it is time to express our inexpugnable gratitude to Jeremy Busch for suggesting today's Good Word.)