Printable Version
Pronunciation: æf-ê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Easy to speak with, easy-going, pleasant to be with, approachable. 2. Pleasant, inviting, comforting.

Notes: Today's Good Word feels like your favorite glove or an old soft shoe: it suggests an easy, relaxed, pleasant character or atmosphere. We simply replace the final E with Y to create the adverb affably, and to create the noun affability, we insert an I before the L, drop the final E and add the suffix -ity. For such a relaxed word, spelling its various forms requires a lot of attention to detail.

In Play: More often than not today's word makes a more precise substitute for the semi-insulting adjective nice: "Why don't you vet your idea with Janet first? She is probably the most affable person in management." The sound of this word is as comfortable as it meaning: "Dad wasn't as affable after I showed him my report card as he was before."

Word History: Today's Good English Word is nothing but Old French affable, which French inherited from Latin affabilis "easy to speak". This adjective came from affari "to speak to", built up of ad "to(ward)" + fari "to speak". The same root (fari) produced fabula "story, plot", which English borrowed as fable and, with an adjectival ending, fabulous. The same original PIE root (bha-) that became fari in Latin, turns up in Greek phanai "to speak", the source of phone "voice, sound" (sound familiar?) In Old English the original root appears as ban- in bannan "to summon, proclaim", whose meaning was overpowered by Old Norse banna "to prohibit, curse". That is it in banish, too, and bandit, which came from Italian bandito "member of a band" from bandire "to band together". The root of this verb was borrowed from English band, a group summoned together. (Let us now summon up an expression of gratitude to the most affable Loren Baldwin for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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