• exiguous •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Extremely scanty in measure or number, teeny-weeny.
Notes: This Good Word comes with a choice of nouns, the commonplace and rather clumsy exiguousness or the more streamlined exiguity. Of course, like any noun ending on the suffix -ous, it may be extended by -ly to produce an adverb: exiguously.
In Play: Exiguous refers to things so small as to almost not be there: "Natalie Cladd came to the party in an exiguous skirt that raised every eyebrow in the garden." It applies equally well to the abstract as it does to the concrete: "Horace was a man of such exiguous scruples that he receives the greater part of his income under the table."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin exiguus "small, petty, paltry, scanty" only slightly refurbished for English. The Latin word was derived from the verb exigere "to demand, require, measure out strictly", itself a combination of ex "out (from)" + agere "to act, move". The past participle of this verb is exactus, the source of English exact. The original English word exact retained the meaning of the Latin verb in its verbal sense of "demand, require, force out". The root of the Latin verb agere may be found all about English in borrowed words like agitate and agent. Of course, we see the root of its past participle, actus, in even more borrowed English words; act, react, activate, and actor are just a few. (We would not like to offer N. J. Olsen exiguous thanks for suggesting today's Good Word, so this may be taken as a token of our heartfelt gratitude.)
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