• gibbous •
gib-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Convex, rounded, protuberant, bulging. 2. Bent, hunched, hunch-backed.
Notes: We are offering today's Good Word in preference to its less lovely synonyms, such as hump-backed, bulging, or convex. It may be used adverbially in the form of gibbously or as either of the nouns gibbosity or the default, gibbousness. I have always felt sorry for the humpback whale; now I think of them as gibbous leviathans of the deep.
In Play: Today's Good Word has been preserved by astronomers, who use it to refer to moons. A gibbous moon is one between half and fully lit, when the lit portion bulges across the shadow. However, anything that bulges attracts this word's attention: "The woman's notably gibbous abdomen suggested that she had not overeaten but was with child." It is also often used to refer to a back that is bowed, "His father, now gibbous with age, struggled with a cane along the street."
Word History: Today's Good Word takes us back to Late Latin gibbus "hump-backed", the adjective of the noun gibbus "hump". The root here is related to Russian sgibat' "to bend" and gibkij "flexible". It also turns up in Greek kuphos and Sanskrit kubya, both of which mean bowed or hump-backed. The word for "hump-backed" in Hebrew is, interestingly enough, gibben, related to gahbnon "peak, summit", Aramaic gibhind "eye-brow", and Arabic jabin "side of the forehead". However, we would not like to speculate that Greek borrowed the root from Hebrew, which belongs to an entirely different language family, Semitic. (Today's Good Word is another gift from Dr. Lyn Laboriel, a hopefully nongibbous member of our family of contributors.)
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