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preposterous

Printable Version Pronunciation: pree-pah-stêr-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Outlandish, perversely absurd, way, way, way beyond the bounds of reason. 2. (A bit dated) Putting the cart before the horse, having the front and back (or heads and tails) reversed.

Notes: Have you ever wondered what preposterous things become later on, once they become really "posterous"? Today's word is what I call a "curve word" since, like a curve ball in baseball, it isn't what it seems to be. We are right to separate the prefix pre-, but if we do so, we also have to separate post for reasons the Word History will make clear. The adverb here is preposterously, and the only noun we have is preposterousness.

In Play: In order to use today's Good Word accurately, its reference must be outlandishly absurd: "When I said that the boss's idea of manufacturing helicopter ejection seats was preposterous, everyone at the conference table glared at me." If you know someone else who subscribes to our Good Words, you can also use the original meaning of this word when speaking with them: "I've never heard of anything so preposterous: Mikey says that he has a preposterous nickel. How could he know?"

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin praeposterus "in reverse order, perverse", made up of pre- "before" + posterus "behind". Posterus was derived from post "after", found in several phrases borrowed from Latin, such as post hoc "after the fact", ex post facto "retroactively", and post war "after the war". The prefix pre- "before" in Latin came from the same source as English fore in, well, before, as well as forecast, foretell, and forebode. Post came from a root that also ended up as English off and after. (Today we thank alphaDictionary's legal advisor, Susan Liddy-Gates, for her perfectly "posterous" suggestion of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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