• incipient •
Pronunciation: in-si-pi-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: That is just beginning, just now detectable, in an initial formative stage.
Notes: Today's word is a little lexical beauty with nouns that are even lovelier; you have your choice: incipience or incipiency. Even with all the hissing, it is a more lilting word than beginning. However, careful how you spell it, for the [s] sound is spelled C. The adverb is incipiently.
In Play: We often hear of incipient diseases and incipient species (those just showing enough differences to be separated), but incipience is all around us: "Susan Liddy-Gates talks so well out of both sides of her mouth we suspect there may be an incipient lawyer lurking inside her." Incipient problems are easier to solve than those in advanced stages: "We may have an incipient problem at the water cooler: someone dumped a bottle of vodka in it today."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes by way of Latin incipien(t)s "beginning", the present participle of incipere "to begin", based on in- "in" + capere "to grab or take". The Latin verb also underlies our words capture and captivate. The original Proto-Indo-European word was *kap- "to grasp, grab". In German it became haben "to have" and in English, have and words like heave, hefty, and heavy—what we find when we grab. We also have a word haft "handle of a tool or weapon", something we all grasp, even though the word today isn't what it used to be.