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immaculate

Printable Version Pronunciation: i-mæ-kyê-lêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Spotless, free of physical, spiritual, or mental blemish. 2. Flawless, without error.

Notes: We often bump into Orphan Negatives, words with a negative meaning but no corresponding positive form. I have in mind words like nonchalant, disgruntled, and unbeknownst. The positive correlate for today's word, maculate, is still out there, merely abandoned for the time being. It still retains the opposite meaning of immaculate, i.e. "spotted, blemished". Both these words are related to the medical term macula "skin discoloration" or the macula lutea, the "yellow spot" near the retina of the eye that determines visual acuity and color perception. Macular degeneration is a degeneration of the macula lutea that often accompanies aging.

In Play: Today's word is often heard in the phrase Immaculate Conception, the concept that Mary was born without the original sin inherited by all mankind as a result of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. It was declared to be an article of faith by the Catholic Church in 1854. However, we find many lay uses for this word: "If Derry Yare's speech were as immaculate as her house, she would be an exceptionally pleasant person."

Word History: oday's Good Word is a remake of Latin immaculatus "unstained", from in- "not" + maculatus "spotted, defiled", the past participle of maculare "to spot". This verb was derived from macula "spot, blemish", a word borrowed several times over the course of English history for it is also spelled mackle in printing, where it refers to a smudge or smear on the printed page, and macle elsewhere. Where macula itself comes from is still something of a mystery upon which I can shed no new light. (I can shed light on the source of today's Good Word: it was the mentally immaculate Perry Lassiter himself.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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