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inculcate

Printable Version Pronunciation: in-kêl-kayt, in-kêl-kayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To thoroughly teach by frequent repetition or other strong measures; to firmly embed a concept in someone's mind.

Notes: Today's Good Word bears a slight tinge of pejorativity, though it may be used quite positively in the right context. It has produced a large and illustrious family of derivations: inculcator, someone who inculcates, inculcation, the process itself, and both inculcatory and inculcative serve as adjectives.

In Play: Inculcation implies very thorough training: "My mother inculcated good table manners in me so thoroughly that even today I cannot enjoy a meal if I see a salad fork inside the dinner fork." Inculcation also implies thorough, permanent learning: "I don't think anyone can inculcate Gladys Friday with the importance of coming to work on time and finishing out the day."

Word History: The pejorative sense of this Good Word comes from its Latin ancestor: inculcatus, the past participle of inculcare "to force upon". This verb was created from the preposition in "in, on" + calcare "to trample", itself derived from calx (calc-s) "heel". (Teachers were once much more forceful in their methods than today.) The root of the Latin word for "heel", kalk-, shows up in Lithuanian kulnas "heel" and a few others but with no spectacular results. (We have thanked Mark Bailey, a Grand Panjandrum at the Alpha Agora, for Good Words like this one enough that our gratitude by this time should be well inculcated.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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