• dilapidated •
di-læ-pê-dayt-id • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Shabby, ramshackle, rickety, in disrepair.
Notes: I love words like today's Good Word: a word abandoned by its parent, left in the world to fend for itself. (Don't waste any sympathy for dilapidated; it was 500 years old when it was turned out.) It survived by converting from a past participle of the verb dilapidate to a self-sufficient adjective, cutting the ties with its parent. Today the old man is probably known better for its noun, dilapidation, in the sense of "rock slide", for reasons that should become clear in the Word History.
In Play: Today's word is used most often in referring to houses: "Ty Kuhn lived in a neighborhood of dilapidated mansions owned by erstwhile wealthy families who had fallen onto hard times." However, it applies to anything man-made that is in a sorry state: "You can't be thinking of picking up Portia Carr in that dilapidated piece of junk you drive!"
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin dilapidatus, the past participle of dilapidare "to squander, waste". This Latin verb originally meant "to throw stones, scatter like stones", made up of dis- "asunder" + lapidare "to stone". If we go back a step farther, we see that this verb is based on lapis (lapidis) "stone, rock". We also see now how the sense of a rock slide could be reconstituted out of the sense of "squander". Greek had a word similar to lapis, lepas "stone cliff", but the trail ends at the classical languages. We could speculate the original was borrowed from a non-PIE language, but that would be speculation in the purest form. (Today's Good Word is due to Rob Towart, whose vocabulary is anything but dilapidated.)
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