• imprimatur •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: An official approval or stamp of approval, official permission to do something.
Notes: Given the origin of this word, Latin imprimere "to print", it comes as no surprise that this word began its life in the 17th century referring to the stamp of approval of either the censor or the financial officer responsible for the printing of a book. Today, however, it is used most widely metaphorically, allowing us to express "stamp of approval" in one breath. The greatest challenge we face in using this Good Word is in resisting the temptation to end it with Silent E—we must stop writing when we reach the second R!
In Play: An imprimatur is the required permission of someone who enjoys complete control: "Nothing goes onto the agenda of the weekly office conference without the imprimatur of the boss's secretary." While the permission does not have to really be official, it must carry the sense of officialdom: "You won't see Luke Worme wandering out of the house at night without his wife's imprimatur."
Word History: Today's Good word is Latin for "let it be printed," a subjunctive form of the verb imprimere "to print". This verb originally meant "to press into, to stamp" from in "in(to)" + premere "to press". In fact, its past participle is impressus, which we borrowed as impress in the senses of both "to print" and "to force into military duty". The sense of "to stamp" in the sense of stamping a wax seal led this word to the metaphorical meaning of impress we use so widely today, as to make an impression on someone's mind. (We are happy to give our imprimatur to Bill Cline's suggestion of today's Good Word.)
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