• ignominy •Pronunciation: ig-nê-mi-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1. Terrible shame, humiliating disgrace. 2. Disgraceful, humiliating behavior.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the source of the adjective ignominious and its adverb, ignominiously, a six-syllable challenge to the tongue. The accent on the first syllable of ignominy is a little odd, especially in light of the accent farther down the word in ignominious [ig-nê-mi-ni-ês] (click here to hear).
In Play: Ignominy is a deeper shame than shame itself: "The ignominy of World War II haunts us still today." Like all varieties of shame, though, its depth varies with the circumstances: "Gooden Small could not endure the ignominy of being passed over by a younger man for the promotion and spent the rest of his career in a curmudgeonly sulk."
Word History: Today's Good Word came to us from Latin ignominia "loss of one's (good) name" via French ignominie. The Latin word consists of in- "not" + nomen, nominis "name." The replacement of the N in in- with G is usually explained as a confusion of nomen with an older form of the word, gnomen. Some believe that this older form is responsible for gnoscere "to come to know". This assumes that the words for "name" and "know" are related, an idea that is not at all far-fetched. The root of gnoscere went into the making of ignorare "to not know", source of English ignore, ignorant, and ignoramus. (Lest we fall beneath the brush of ignominy, let us not ignore Ed Pellicciotti but thank him for suggesting this excellent Good Word.)