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decadence

Printable Version Pronunciation: de-kê-dênts, dee-kay-dêns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Decay, rot, a state of deterioration, degeneration, or decline. 2. Self-indulgence, self-gratification, self-pampering.

Notes: Today's is another Good Word coming from one of those adjectives ending on the suffix -ent that is often confused with -ant. The adjective descendent is even spelled differently from the noun descendant if you follow publishing standards. Just remember to spell the ending -ence and you should have no problem with it.

In Play: We seldom apply this word to fruit or other vegetation any more; it is far more often used metaphorically: "I think the collapse of the financial markets reflects just how decadent our corporate society has become." Since the metaphor usually applies to societies and organizations where self-indulgence is often the cause of decadence, today's Good Word is now associated with self-indulgence itself: "That dessert called 'Chocolate Decadence' is well-named; I feel guilty of decadence when I eat it."

Word History: Today's Good Word is another purloined from French, a language that started out as Latin. French inherited the word from Medieval Latin decadentia "decay, deterioration", a noun derived from the Vulgar (street) Latin verb decadere "to rot, decay". This verb contains the prefix de- "from" + cadere "to fall, die". The ultimate root here, cad-, is visible in a host of English words borrowed from the various Romance (Latin descendent) languages: cadaver, cadence, and cascade are among the most obvious. However, the word for what might befall you, chance, is also a French rendition of Latin cadentia "falling". (We have not fallen into such decadence as to miss our chance to thank Don Andreatta for suggesting today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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