• delirium •
Pronunciation: di-li-ri-um • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. A disordered state of mind characterized by confusion, agitation, hallucinations, incoherent speech, and disturbances of thought, memory, and mood. 2. A state of frenzied activity from uncontrollable happiness or enthusiasm, wild emotion or excitement.
Notes: We have all heard of alcoholics suffering the "DTs". This is the abbreviation for 'delirium tremens', a form of delusions and tremors caused by alcohol deprivation in cases of severe alcoholism. We have two adjectives accompanying this noun, the rare deliriant, and the more common delirious. It comes with a verb, too: deliriate "to act in a deluded manner", as if affected by delirium.
In Play: Today's term is an escapee from the medical world: "Certain symptoms and signs help doctors distinguish between the temporary state of delirium and dementia." It may be heard enjoying its freedom in suggestions like this: "The delirium of shoppers on Black Friday this year is expected to be especially intense."
Word History: Today's Good Word IS Latin delirium "madness", from deliriare "be crazy, rave", originally meaning "go off the furrow" (= "off the tracks"), a plowing metaphor from the Latin phrase 'de lira', comprising de "off, (away) from" + lira "furrow, track". Latin inherited this word from PIE leis-/lois- "furrow, plough a furrow, pursue, learn", also found in English last and, with rhotacization, learn. German lehren "to teach" and lernen "to study, learn", from the same PIE word, also show evidence of rhotacization. Serbian leha and Bulgarian lekha "(field) bed" are two other words from the same PIE word. (And now a gracious bow is due Anna Jung, a new but prolific contributor of such as today's beguiling Good Word.)