• astringent •
Pronunciation: ê-strin-jênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Drawing together (organic) tissue, styptic. 2. Figuratively sharp, pungent, severe, as 'astringent remarks'. 3. Strong, bitter, as 'an astringent taste'.
Notes: This adjective comes from the rare verb astringe "to draw close, to constrict". It provides for an adverb, astringently, and a noun, astringency. It may be used itself as a noun referring to any substance causing things to astringe, as 'to use a styptic stick as an astringent after shaving'.
In Play: The fundamental sense of this word is "to constrict": "I don't think your wound merits a Band-Aid; an astringent is all you need." However, the sense has wandered off to a metaphorical "sharp, strong", which is more often the way today's Good Word is used: "Mother had some rather astringent remarks for Mark when he tracked mud in the kitchen floor that she had just mopped."
Word History: This word is a makeover of Latin astringen(t)s "constricting", the present participle of astringere "to bind fast, tighten, constrict" from ad- "(up) to" + stringere "to draw tight". The PIE word that produced stringere in Latin came to English via its Germanic ancestors without the Fickle N as streak, strict, and strike. The same PIE word, strei(n)g- "to stroke, rub, press", produced Lithuanian stregti "congeal, become stiff" and Greek strangein "to twist". English borrowed several words from Latin based on stringere, including stringent and, via French, strain, restrain, and constrain. (At this point we should all feel constrained to thank William Hupy for suggesting today's exceptionally Good Word.)