Printable Version
Pronunciation: fi-lê:-sah-fêng-kyul-ist Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A minor or insignificant philosopher, a fake philosopher, a philosophical pretender.

Notes: This word comes with a synonym, philosophuncule, to which we may simply add -ist to get today's word. It is so far a lexical orphan, but we can imagine an array of paronyms paralleling that of any noun on -ist: philosophunculistic, philosophunculically, etc.

In Play: This word may be used somewhat positively: "Hadley is a philosophunculist at a small college in the Panhandle," but most often negatively: "Lucinda Head speaks about life with all the sagacity of the philosophunculist she is."

Word History: Today's amusing Good Word is a borrowing from Latin, combined with an English element: Latin philosoph(us) "philosopher" + English -uncul(e), an Anglicized version of Latin -un-culus, which is a diminutive suffix meaning "small, little" + -ist. Philosophus was borrowed from Greek Philosophos "philosopher, sage", a compound comprising philo(s) "loving" + sophos "skilled, clever, wise". The origin of philos is unknown. One eminent etymologist proposes a PIE word bhilo- "harmonious, friendly", listing German billig 'cheap, reasonable (price)" and Dutch billijk "reasonable (price)" as cognates. The same is true of sophos, though no one has any idea where it comes from. (Now a gracious bow to Professor Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon, a contributor of surprisingly Good Words like today's since 2009.)

Dr. Goodword,

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