• mendacity •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Untruthfulness, the tendency or habit of lying, deceiving, misrepresenting the truth. 2. A lie or falsehood.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with an adjective, mendacious "untruthful, lying" and an adverb, mendaciously. It may also be combined with the second element of another Good Word, stultiloquent, creating mendaciloquent, meaning "speaking with a forked tongue", that is to say, "in lies".
In Play: In arguing to repeal the new US heath-care bill, Representative Steven King of Iowa last week applauded the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, in these terms: "I would make the point that the leader and the speaker [of the House] have established their integrity and their mendacity for years in this Congress and I don't believe it can be effectively challenged." Mr. King of Iowa apparently thought mendacity meant "truthfulness", so we are running this word to prevent its further misuse. Please contact your congressman and urge him or her to subscribe to our Good Words.
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from the French reworking of Latin mendacitas "mendacity", a word derived from mendax (mendac-s) "lying, deceitful". This word came from an ancestor of mendum "fault, defect", whose root we see in amend, which became simply mend in English, and mendicant "beggar". The only relative of this word I could find outside Latin is Sanskrit minda "physical defect". So it seems to be an Indo-European word that did not spread far over the course of history. (I can say without mendacity that we are deeply grateful to Barbara Kelly for bringing today's word and its misuse to our attention.)
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