• buxom •
bêk-sêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Pleasingly plump and jolly, zaftig, chubbily curvaceous and good-humored.
Notes: Today's Good Word is often mistaken to mean "full bosomed", probably because of its similarity to the word bosom. Its most widely shared meaning around the world, however, includes the entire body. This word comes equipped with an adverb, buxomly, and a noun, buxomness.
In Play: The shift in the meaning of today's word from simply "zaftig" to "bosomy" may be the responsibility of Hollywood's first sex goddess, Mae West: "Mae West was a buxom movie star for whom the modern life vest was named, since it makes all who wear it look buxom." The positive connotations of today's Good Word make is a discreet substitute for words like fat, chubby, pudgy, which are considered offensive today: "I wouldn't say that Kay Largo is fat, just pleasantly buxom."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes with a hidden suffix, -some, or so it is spelled today. When the word actually emerged in the 12th century, it was spelled -sum, and the original word was buhsum "obliging, obedient". The suffix -sum went on to become today's -some in all the words it is attached to except buxom. The root, buh-, was a variant of Old English bug- in bugen "to bend, to bow". So the original meaning was "bending, bendable" and thence "pliant" and "obliging". The shift to "chubby" is a bit difficult to explain; however, the word still carries the implication of a person of good humor.
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