Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-dêl-têr-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To reduce strength or purity by adding inferior ingredients.

Notes: No, this word doesn't mean "to make adult". If you adulterate writing, in fact, you make the reading of it less adult. Today's Good Word has nothing to do, historically (see Word History) or currently, with adults; even children can adulterate things. The nouns are adulteration and adulterator. The past participle may be used as an adjective, often negated: unadulterated, as in the unadulterated truth. The positive adjective is spelled the same as the verb only pronounced differently: [ê-dêl-têr-rêt]. However, be careful how you use this word; it also means "adulterous".

In Play: Today's Good Word started out meaning "to water down", as in to water down drinks: "I don't frequent that pub because I suspect the bartenders of adulterating the whiskey." But then the meaning expanded to include reducing the strength or purity of anything: "Don't adulterate your words: say what you really think."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from adulteratus, the past participle of Latin adulterare "to falsify, corrupt (a woman)". This verb combines ad "to" + alterare "change". The stem of this word gave us alter and alternative. Obviously, the whole word served as the basis for adultery. Adult, on the other hand, is taken from the Latin word, adultus "having grown up, mature," the past participle of adolescere "grow up, mature". The present participle of this word, adolescen(t)s "growing up, maturing", was borrowed into English as adolescent.

Dr. Goodword,

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