• acrimony •
Pronunciation: æ-krê-mo-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: Physical or psychological bitterness, rancor, hostile resentment.
Notes: This term is seldom used in reference to taste (literal bitterness) any more, but that was the original meaning, as 'the intense acrimony of a pill or wormwood'. The adjective is acrimonious as 'an acrimonious debate over which of the identical dresses had been purchased first'.
In Play: Finding anything amusing in today's word is difficult; it usually refers to intense unpleasantness: "Their marriage ended in a pool of acrimony that drained into a rancorous divorce." However, we never shrink before lexical challenge: "The unexpected acrimony of the salad dressing led to an acrimonious interchange between the host and his spouse."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a redesign of Latin acrimonia "sharpness, pungency" from acer "sharp". The original PIE root was ak- "sharp, pointed". Latin inherited this word from a suffixed word in PIE ak-ya- that evolved into Old Norse eggya "incite, goad", borrowed by English as the verb egg, as in "to egg (on)". It became edge in English all by itself. Suffixed with -men, this same word for some reason became "stone" in the Baltic languages, Latvian akmens and Lithuanian akmuo. In Proto-Slavic ak- underwent metathesis (place switching) to ka-, becoming kamen' "stone" in Russian and kamen in Serbian. Suffixed with Germanic -er it turns up hammer in English and other Germanic languages, where PIE [k] became [h] or [gh]. It produced the words that English borrowed as acumen, acuity, and acupuncture. In Greek, with the suffix -m, the same root turns up in acme "point, pinnacle" and with -r, as acros "high, top", found in acrobat, from acro "high" + bainen, bat- "walk".