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excoriate

Printable Version Pronunciation: ek-sko-ri-yayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To tear or flay off the skin or hide. 2. To chastise or castigate scathingly, to chew out vehemently.

Notes: You wouldn't want to confuse today's word with excorticate "to remove the bark from trees". The activity our Good Word refers to is excoriation, the removal of hide or fur, literally or figuratively. Those who carry out excoriation (the action noun) are excoriators (the agent noun).

In Play: What common cliché says this more directly: "More than one method exists for excoriating a feline"? (Aren't you glad linguists don't write our adages?) Now, for the next meaning, when "chewing out" simply doesn't convey the intensity of the chewing out: "The boss excoriated Aiken Hart for stepping on the hem of her gown while she was dancing with her husband." (I haven't the heart to describe what happened to the gown.)

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from the past participle, excoriat(us), of the Latin verb, excoriare "to strip of the hide or skin off", based on ex- "off, from" + corium "skin, hide; leather". The same root is found in Latin cortex "bark", used in neuroscience to refer to the outer layer of the brain. Greek kormos "a stripped tree trunk" and koris "bedbug", something that gets under your skin and makes you wish it were off, are kinwords. (The source of today's word was M. Henri Day, a hyperactive word trader at the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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