• immiserate •
i-miz-êr-rayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To make miserable, wretched. 2. To impoverish.
Notes: We all know commiserate, but today's word is a close lexical cousin that we seldom hear. The noun, of course, is immiseration and the adjective, immiserative.
In Play: This word is most often used to refer to economic immiseration: "The Great Recession of 2008 resulted in the immiseration of millions of Americans." However, it basically means "to make miserable" and so may be used in other situations: "Magdalena didn't realize how much her rejection of Truman's proposal would immiserate him."
Word History: Today's Good Word was not based on Latin immiseror "to pity", but was created in the late 40s or early 50s out of Latin in- "in, on" + miser "wretched, pitiable" + -ate, an English Latinate verb suffix. Etymologists cannot find any PIE pedigree for this word, though it is found in many Latin words, most of which have been borrowed by several European languages. English borrowed the Latin root itself, miser, and changed the meaning to "tightwad", presumably under the assumption that a miser would be wretched not spending his money on pleasurable things. Miserable was borrowed from Latin miserabilis "pitiable, miserable" after it had been polished by Old French. (Lest we immiserate William Hupy, a long-time contributor of Good Word suggestions, we should thank him now.)
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