• placate •
Pronunciation: (UK) plê-kayt, (US) play-kayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To calm down (someone), to allay their anger, to soothe, mollify.
Notes: Besides the two different pronunciations, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on, this word has a large lexical family. The action noun is placation and the personal noun is placater. It comes with two adjectives, placative and placatory. The present participle can also serve as noun and adjective. There are positive and negative passive adjectives, placable and implacable, both without the verbal affix -ate.
In Play: We act in many different ways to placate others: "In the first gay pride all participants were fully dressed to placate the homophobes." However, this word has a wide range of applications: "After she heard that Harry had taken his secretary out to lunch without her, Harry tried to placate his wife with flowers and candy."
Word History: Today's Good Word was built on Latin placatus "soothed, quiet, calm", the past participle of placare "to calm, soothe, assuage". English please came from the same verb after French had polished it up into plaisir. Latin built its word on a PIE inheritance of plak- "flat(ten)", source also of English flag and flake. Greek pelagos "sea" is a reworking of the same PIE word; it underlies the English borrowing archipelago. Greek plagios "sideways, aslant" is the same PIE word with less reworking. It was borrowed by Latin as plagia "hillside, shoreline", which Spanish turned into playa "beach". Placare also underlies placidus "peaceful, calm, serene", which French turned into placide, before English borrowed it. There would seem to have been a nasalized form of the PIE word, pla(n)k-, for we find evidence of it in Late Latin planca "a board", which French converted to planche and English borrowed as plank. (Today's is yet another fascinating Good Word from wordmaster extraordinaire William Hupy.)