Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-mêk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Adverb

Meaning: 1. In a highly frenzied, violent state. 2. Out of control, in chaos.

Notes: This word should be spelled amok, as you see above, but so many people spell it amuck that this misspelling is now widely accepted in the US (elsewhere amok seems preferred). As an adjective, it may only be used in the predicate of a sentence. We may say, "The meeting was completely amok," but we may NOT speak of "the amok meeting". This adjective also cannot be compared, though it may be used 'as is' as an adverb: "The meeting went amok."

In Play: Today's Good Word still retains its sense of violence: "The bee that flew up her dress caused Bernice to run amok and do considerable damage to herself and the merchandise in the crystal store." It also has the less violent sense of simply being out of control or a mess: "Your tax records are totally amok; I don't know if I can help you."

Word History: Today's word has undergone 'folk etymology'. Folk etymology is the reconstruction of a borrowed word to make it more compatible with native words. In this case, the familiar word muck replaced mok in the Malay word, amok "frenzied, out of control", resulting in a more "English" term amuck, similar to adverb-adjectives like aboard, aglow, and adrift.

Dr. Goodword,

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