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Printable Version Pronunciation: pree-pahs-têr-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Outlandish, inconceivable, outrageous, in violation of all the laws of nature and logic.

Notes: Writers have created all the expectable derivations from this word: preposterously is the adverb, and preposterousness, the noun though preposterosity strikes me as more in keeping with the meaning of the word. Preposterosity doesn't sound so preposterous when compared to the words derived from it by writers in the 17th century. They went so far as to create a verb from this family, to preposterate, as to preposterate your life by riotous living. They even created a noun from the verb: preposteration. Preposterous! Aren't we glad we live in a more sensible epoch?

In Play: Do not use this word lightly; save it for situations that are genuinely outlandish, that is, far, far, far from the realm of the usual: "Maude Lynn Dresser came to the party in a preposterous hat with a live pigeon tied by the leg sitting on a nest surrounded by pine twigs." Politics is a good place to look for preposterousness if it is lacking in your life: "One candidate's position on health care is the preposterous idea that we pay our medical bills with chickens and odd jobs done for the physician."

Word History: Today's word is the usual adaptation of a Latin noun, preposterus "out of order or in reverse order, absurd, contrary to nature", made up of pre- "before, in front" + posterus "after, behind". The original word meant literally "before-behind" with the adjective suffix -us. It was originally a creation along the lines of English upside-down and inside-out. This led to the sense of "wrong, abnormal" and from there to its current meaning in English. (It would be bordering on the preposterous to think that we would forget to thank Kathleen McCune of Norway for suggesting today's outlandishly Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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