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vestige

Printable Version Pronunciation: ve-stij Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The smallest indicator of something, a hint, a trace, a shred of evidence, as in 'to show only a vestige of sympathy'. 2. A bodily organ or historical remains of an organ that no longer functions, such as the appendix.

Notes: Today's word is a thing of lexical beauty. The adjective accompanying it is just as beautiful: vestigial. This word comes with an adverb formed the usual way, by adding the suffix -ly: vestigially.

In Play: Vestige is a good word to us instead of shred or trace: "Supermarkets are attempting to remove the last vestiges of human contact by replacing checkout workers with computerized machines." Let's not forget the medical life of today's Good Word: "The vestigial heart of Phil Anders came to life any time any woman walked into the room."

Word History: This word comes directly from French, which inherited it from Latin vestigium "footprint, track, vestige". We do not know how this word came to be in Latin; there isn't a vestige of it in any other Indo-European language. It did go into the making of Latin vestigare "to track (follow the footprints)", which led to investigare "to track, search for". The noun from this verb was investigatio(n) "investigation", which French inherited pretty much intact. English borrowed investigation and performed a grammatical operation called 'back-formation' on it to give us investigate. (Today's Good Word is a delightful vestige of the mind of Gordon Wray of somewhere in Canada.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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