• articulate •
Pronunciation: ahr-tik-yê-lêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Well-spoken, having the gift of excellent speech, the ability to speak or write well; well-spoken or well-written. 2. Clearly delineated, as 'an articulate historical period'. 3. [Anatomy] Jointed, having joints, as 'an articulate insect'.
Notes: This word is one of those words ending on -ate that can be an adjective or verb depending on how the final syllable is pronounced. The vowel in that syllable is reduced to [ê] in the adjective, but in the verb it is pronounced [ay]: [ahr-tik-yê-layt], as to clearly articulate a policy, i.e. lay out the details of it precisely. The adjective offers an adverb, articulately, and the verb, a noun, articulation.
In Play: A good example of articulate speech is the past US president: "Most Americans miss the articulate and uplifting speech of our previous president amidst the tsunami of tweets from the present one." The second, original meaning is used mostly in the science of biology: "Most insects have articulate legs."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from articulatus "jointed", the past participle of articulare "to divide into joints". This verb comes from articulus "small joint, article", a diminutive of artus "joint". This word was borrowed from Greek arthron "joint, article". You can see the root of this word in arthritis, the joint inflammation, and arthrosis, a degenerative joint disease. The original semantic implication is that articulated speech or writing has clear points connected in a clear manner. The word article began its life referring to an articulated part of a larger document, as 'an article in a contract or law'. This meaning easily migrated to a separate piece in a newspaper, journal, or other publication with distinct but connected parts.