Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-mæn-yu-en-sis Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An assistant who takes dictation and/or makes copies (originally copying manuscripts).

Notes: The position of an amanuensis expanded to that of a secretary, and now secretaries are being replaced by executive assistants. We need a new, more imposing name for assistants who keep up with paper and electronic copies. Unless we have a strong desire to unleash acomputerensis, this might be a Good Word to replace secretary with, if we only slightly update the meaning a bit. We might even back-derive a verb, to amanuense, if needed—no big deal. Notice that the plural of today's word is amanuenses, like all English words ending on -is.

In Play: Here is how the word would work in today's office, "Marvin is my indispensable amanuensis; he types, edits, and proofreads everything I write." Now, despite the sound of its second syllable, this is a unisex noun, applicable to both genders: "Polly Graff is just the sort of trustworthy amanuensis the office has needed for years." We should launch the rebirth of amanuensis immediately.

Word History: This Good Word comes directly from the Latin word, based on the phrase a manu "at hand" (short for servus a manu "hand servant") + -ensis "pertaining to." Manus "hand" is also found in manacle, maneuver, manuscript (hand-written), manage (to handle), manual (a handbook), manufacture ("make by hand" in ancient Rome), and manure. In Middle English manure meant "land cultivation" from Old French main-ouverer "hand-work", the Anglo-Norman descendant of Latin manuoperare "to work (the soil) with the hands". (Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, aka Uncronopio in our marketplace of words, the Alpha Agora, managed to suggest this word in the Good Word suggestion shop there.)

Dr. Goodword,

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