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monster

Printable Version Pronunciation: mahn-stêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Disproportionately huge, outlandishly large. 2. Anything that is repulsively deformed or causes disgust. 3. Any animal or person who is terribly misbehaved, who treats others horribly.

Notes: Today's Good Word is probably used far too often. This may be the cause of its having such a large family of derivations. Something like a monster is monstrous and if it is very, very monstrous, it might be called a monstrosity. Anything—person or place—that produces monsters is monstriferous. To convert something into a monster in any of this word's senses is to monstrify it. Have fun.

In Play: My sense of this word is that it is used most frequently in its first meaning: "I could barely believe that Hardy Belcher ate every last bite of the monster steak he was served at the Dunham Inn last Saturday." When we use the word in its other senses, more often than not it serves for emphatic exaggeration: "Gladys Friday's mother is a monster who makes her daughter clean her room every weekend!"

Word History: English borrowed this word from Old French monstre after French had honed it from Latin monstrum "omen, portent, monster". This noun was created from the verb monere "to warn", which also underlies monitor. Because unusually large or misshapen animals were once taken to be signs of impending danger or crisis, the meaning of the noun slipped over to where it is today. The root of this word was originally men-/mon- "think", which came to English as mind. Latin used both forms of this root, mon- in monere and monstrum, and men- in mens, mentis "mind". The root of this word was recently mentioned as also underlying opsimath, since math- is the Greek word for "learning" that came from the same source. (It would be monstrous of us to forget to thank Dan Gemeinhart for sharing his curiosity about this Good Word with us.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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