• unguent •
Pronunciation: êng-gwênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A soothing ointment, unction, balm, or salve. 2. Anything that soothes, smooths the way around difficulties.
Notes: However rare today's Good Word may be, it is surrounded by a rather full though equally rare family of derivations. An unguentarium is a container for unguent, used mostly by archaeologists. A maker of unguents is an unguentary or unguentarian. The adjective is unguentous "greasy, smeared with ointment".
In Play: The basic reference of today's word is any soother or restorative lotion, unction, or salve: "Lucinda Head staves off aging with every ointment, unction, balm, or unguent that flows out of a tube, bottle, or can." It may be used metaphorically for anything soothing: "Kind words were no unguent that could solace Siddie Hall for her loss of the election."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed via French from Latin unguentem "ointment", noun of the verb unguere "to anoint". Latin obtained its verb via the PIE root ongw- "salve, to anoint", source also of Sanskrit anakti "anoints, smears", Armenian aucanem "I anoint", Swiss German dialect anken "to butter", and Welsh ymenyn "butter". We find Latin grandchildren in all the Romance languages: French onguent, Italian unguento, Portuguese unguento, and Spanish ungüento. (William Hupy always has an unguentous Good Word like today's for those lucky enough to be subscribers of this series.)