• abject •
Pronunciation: æb-jekt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Extremely bad, utterly horrible, as 'abject misery'. 2. Completely without a hint of pride, utterly self-abasing, extremely shameful, as 'abject apology'.
Notes: Here is an oddity: most Latinate borrowings ending on -ject are verbs: reject, inject, eject. There is no verb abject. It does form an abstract (quality) noun just like a verb: abjection. The adverb, on the other hand, is that of an adjective: abjectly.
In Play: Today's word is an intensifier of words referring to bad situations: "I agreed with the speaker on every point, but not with the abject bad taste of his profanity." It may also carry the sense of complete and utter shame: "The teacher reprimanded the two abject boys for putting ice cubes down the girls' sweaters."
Word History: Today's Good Word was based on Latin abiectus "low, crouching", the past participle of abiectare "to throw down or away; degrade, abase", made up of ab "off, (away) from" + the combining form of iacere "to throw, hurl, cast". Latin inherited iacere from PIE root yek- "to throw, impel". (Latin had no letters Y or [European] J so it made I a consonant before vowels.) Ancient Greek híenai "to send, throw" shared the same source. This word is hidden in catheter, borrowed from Greek katheter "something inserted, let down into", from kathienai "to send down", comprising kata- "down" + hienai. Enema, too, was borrowed from Greek enema "injection, enema", the noun from enienai "to send in, inject", comprising en- "in" + hienai. Of course, all the English Latinate borrowings ending on -ject and -jacent come from Latin iacere, such as inject, traject, and adjacent. (Now a round of applause for our new GW editor, Jeremy Busch, whose watchful eye caught today's odd little Good Word and who thereafter brought it to our attention.)