Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-ber-rênt; ê-ber-rênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Deviating from the norm, abnormal, atypical, anomalous.

Notes: An odd thing is happening to today's Good Word: its accent is changing. The accent has traditionally fallen on the second syllable, aberrant, but it is more and more pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, especially in the US: aberrant. At this stage, we have our choice. Do remember that this word is spelled with one B and two Rs, not the reverse. The noun for this word is aberration, a word that implies a verb, to aberrate, that we are free to use today.

In Play: Today's word usually bears a slightly negative connotation; aberrance is an undesirable departure from the normal: "Glen maintains an aberrant interpretation of traffic signs as suggestions rather than rules." It requires apologies like this: "In today's world there is nothing aberrant in a grandfather's learning how to use a computer from his four-year-old grandson."

Word History: This word came from Latin aberran(t)s, the present participle of aberrare "to go astray". This verb is made up of ab "(away) from" + errare "to stray, to wander off course". The root of this verb, err- turns up on several English borrowings, including err and error, taken pretty much directly from Latin. The source of this Latin word came to the Germanic languages as German irren "to err, to wander astray" and ended up in English as ire, apparently dating back to a time when losing one's temper was considered an error in one's ways. (Today's Good Word was another contribution by the mysterious Klimt of the Alpha Agora, where our readers go every day to discuss the Good Words further.)

Dr. Goodword,

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