• declivity •
Pronunciation: di-kli-vê-tee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A downward slope.
Notes: Several adjectives are related to today's noun; the two most common are declivous [de-kli-vês] and declivitous [di-kli-vê-tês], currently the more popular of the pair. The antonym is acclivity "upward slope," whose adjective is acclivitous.
In Play: Today's word plays a major role in geological descriptions, "Old man Truman lived and died on the eastern declivity of Mount St. Helens." However, descriptions of other things can often accommodate it, too: "Their relationship has been in a declivitous state since the evening he lifted her cat from the couch by its tail."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin declivitas "slope, declivity" from declivis "sloping downhill", comprising de- "(away) from" + clivus "slope". The root of this word is related to climate via Greek klima "region". The zero-grade form of the same root, suffixed with -d, kli-d-, gave us <i>lid</i> from Old English hlid "cover". Suffixed with -n, the same root became English lean from Old English hlinian "to lean" and suffixed with -ent, it produced Latin cliens, clientis "dependent, follower", the source of English client. Finally, another suffixed form evolved into ladder, from Old English hlædder "ladder", whose trail leads through Old Germanic hlaidri-.