• edentate •
Pronunciation: ee-den-tayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Lacking teeth (the dental correlate of bald). The antonym of dentate "having or shaped like teeth".
Notes: The verb, also edentate, means "to extract or otherwise remove teeth". Edentation is the noun for that verb. Edentulous [ee-den-tyê-lês] or [ee-den-chê-lês] has the same meaning as edentate, deriving from Latin edentulus with the same meaning. The term is common in biology in referring to animals without teeth, such as chickens and ducks.
In Play: The concrete uses of this word are rather obvious: "Her biscuits are not for the weak or edentate." But why not abstract extensions like, "Has congress passed another edentate law restricting handguns?" Rather than threatening to knock someone's teeth out, try: "If you don't leave me alone I'll edentate you!" If that doesn't turn everyone's sense of humor, it will turn them to the closest dictionary.
Word History: This Good Word comes from the past participle (edentatus) Latin edentare "to knock someone's teeth out", originally ex "out of" + den(t)s "tooth". Latin dens, dentis "tooth" comes from the same source as Sanskrit dantas, Greek odous, Gothic tunthus, German Zahn, and English tooth, so the N must have been Fickle. The original Proto-Indo-European word was the present participle of ed- "eat", ed-ent- "biting", that lost the unaccented initial E by the process known as 'aphesis', which left dent-. English has several words based on this stem: dental, dentist, and so on. (Our thanks to Albert Schofield for putting a little bite in the Word of the Day with this toothy word meaning "toothless".)