• prolific •
Pronunciation: prê-li-fik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Producing large amounts, producing substantial quantities.
Notes: The abstract noun for this word is prolificity, but prolificacy, derived from the verb prolificate, is used as often as prolificity. The alternate adjective, prolifical, is a rare bird these days, but you must use it as the base of the adverb, prolifically.
In Play: Anything that can reproduce may be prolific: "Rabbits have the reputation of being the most prolific breeders of any domestic animal," including people: "Irving Berlin was among the most prolific song-writers in the history of American music."
Word History: English borrowed today's word from (where else?) French prolifique, the French rendition of Medieval Latin prolificus, the adjective of proles "offspring" + -fic-, the combining form of facere "to make, to do". As mentioned in many Good Words, facere comes from PIE root dhe-/dho- "to set, put", source also of English do. Latin proles is a contracted form of pro-oles, from PIE pro- "forth" + root al- "to grow, nourish". The passive participle of al- would have been al-t, just what we need to predict German alt "old", Latin altus "high" (from the sense "grown up"), and English old. Greek althein "to heal, get well" comes from the same PIE word.