• ancillary •
Pronunciation: æn-sê-ler-i • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Supporting something that is primary, secondary, subordinate, assistant, as 'ancillary services'. 2. Auxiliary, accessory, as 'ancillary pump'.
Notes: This adjective is a daughter of the late verb, ancillate. The passing of the verb left today's word a lexical orphan. Don't confuse it with auxiliary, which has only one L; ancillary has two.
In Play: The basic meaning of this word is "secondary but related": "Life-long learning is only an ancillary function of American universities, while sports are primary." The sense of this word does not speak to the importance of the ancillary object: "The cost of a college education includes tuition and room and board, not to mention ancillary costs, like beer, pizza, and iPhone games."
Word History: Today's Good Word originated as Latin ancillaris "relating to maidservants", from ancilla "maidservant", the feminine diminutive of anculus "servant". The sense of this word devolved from "he who bustles around", based on the root PIE root ambhi- "around" + PIE kwel-/kwol- "revolve, move round". The root ambhi turned up in Latin as ambi, as in ambidextrous, and Greek as amphi-, as in amphitheater. Kwel-/kwol- ended up in English as wheel and in German, as Hals "neck", that upon which the head turns. Bucolic started out as ancient Greek boukolos "cowherd", from bou(s) "ox" + -kolos "herdsman", he who rounds up livestock. (Although our gratitude to Perry Lassiter for recommending today's Good Word may seem ancillary, it is nonetheless of major importance.)