• embonpoint •
Pronunciation: æN-boN-pwahN • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Plumpness, stoutness, fleshiness, in a complimentary or euphemistic sense.
Notes: Today we have a word that has been only slightly modified from the phrase it was derived from and the sound remains French. It has no progeny or siblings, since it has remained pretty much a French word. Despite its rarity and its "Frenchiness", it appears in all the major dictionaries, including 29 of the OneLook dictionaries.
In Play: Embonpoint indicates a general fleshiness, a soft musculature mixed with some fat: "As we age, most of us incline to embonpoint." The causes of embonpoint are many and various: "Frank's much discussed embonpoint turned out to be caused by the descent of his chest to his beltline."
Word History: Today's Good Word is French embonpoint "fullness, plumpness", from the Old French phrase en bon point, figuratively "in good condition", often used as a euphemism for "fatness". Middle English had translated the French phrase into 'in good point', meaning "in good condition, healthy, fortunate" but decided to override it with the French original. French reduced Latin bonus "good" to bon. It completely remodeled Latin punctum "pinprick hole, dot" into point. Punctum is the neuter singular of punctus "pricked, pierced", the past participle of pungere "to prick, pierce". This word was inherited from PIE peu(n)k- "to prick" with a Fickle N. The Fickle N underwent metathesis to produce pugnare "to fight", which underlies the English borrowing pugnacious. (Today's rather arcane Good Word was a gift of 'Mr. Simple', a newcomer to the crowd of contributors.)