• fulminate •
Pronunciation: fUl-mê-nayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive and intransitive
Meaning: 1. To set off an explosion. 2. To explode in angry words, to rail on and on furiously and scathingly.
Notes: Today's explosive Good Word, as the Word History will show, is associated with the explosiveness and thunder of lightning. It is used as a noun to refer to explosive salts, such as 'fulminate of mercury', which was used as a commercial explosive until replaced by the more stable dynamite. A person who fulminates is a fulminator, who is given to fulminatory tirades. The action noun is fulmination. We most often fulminate against something or over it.
In Play: Although today's verb may refer to setting off a real explosion, it is most frequently used in reference to human explosions: "Raymond sputters and fulminates against the physical education requirement every time the subject comes up." Fulmination is the most explosive type of verbal assault: "More and more Americans are fulminating over the political quagmire in Congress."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin fulminatus "struck by lightning" from the verb fulminare "to strike with lightning", based on fulmen "lightning flash, thunderbolt". The root in fulmen, fulm- comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bhel- "shine, bright", which resulted in Russian belyi "white" and, believe it or not, English black (words often take on an antonymous meaning over time). The PIE [bh] sound became [f] in Latin, which is how the Latin word fornax "oven" (origin of English furnace) could come from the same original word as English burn. (We wouldn't want Colin Burt to fulminate against our forgetting to thank him, so thanks, Colin, for suggesting today's Good Word.)