• vituperate •
Pronunciation: vai-tu-pêr-ayt or vai-tyu-pê-reyt (British) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To scold harshly with abusive language, to revile furiously with a scurrilous stream of billingsgate.
Notes: Anyone who tends to vituperate is a vituperator, which means that he or she is vituperative. The degrading behavior they inflict on people is vituperation. Synonyms or near synonyms include revile and fulminate. The former does not imply the furiousness of the verbal abuse that vituperate does. Fulminate further implies explosiveness, an explosion of verbal abuse.
In Play: In Ivanhoe (1819), Walter Scott depicts a scene I would love to have witnessed in person: "The incensed priests . . . continued to raise their voices, vituperating each other in bad Latin." If you find yourself falling victim to the verbs curse or cuss too often, here is the perfect substitute: "Vituperate, fulminate, blaspheme as much as you want, revile me if you will, but I will not eat this hotdog without chili."
Word History: Today's Good Word is made from the past participle of the Latin verb, vituperare "to censure, find fault", based on vitium "fault, blemish" + parare "to prepare, furnish". Vitium went on to become French vice, another word nicked by English as vice "bad habit, crime". It is unrelated to the prefix vice- "assistant", as in vice-president. This prefix comes from Latin vicinus "near, neighboring", which lies just beneath the surface of English vicinity. Vitium is related to Russian vina "guilt, fault". (For this Good Word we owe thanks to Denver's most exciting young architect, Owen Beard, principal of SOLID Designs & Construction, who is never vituperative, not even with obstreperous subcontractors.)