Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-pawl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To shock or dismay greatly, to disgust.

Notes: If you use British spelling, you may reduce the spelling of this word to appal. The remainder of its forms, spelled either way, appalled and appalling, remain the same, except, of course, appals and appalls. We probably hear the present participle, appalling, used in the sense of "dreadfully shocking", more often than any other form of this word.

In Play: The contributor of today's Good Word can imagine Maggie Smith, playing Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, using this word to dismiss every modern affront that comes to Downton Abbey: "I am simply appalled at what is now being called 'fashion' these days!" I can, too.

Word History: In Middle English today's word was apallen "to grow pale or faint" from Old French apalir "to grow pale", comprising a- "(up)to" + palir "to grow pale". The French prefix a- is a reduction of Latin ad- "(up)to"; palir is a reduction of pallere "to grow pale". Appall was still used in England in the late 17th century in the sense of "grow pale or faint". English pale was obviously borrowed from this family and pallid from Latin pallidus. The Greek word that emerged from the same PIE item, polios "gray", went into the making of poliomyelitis, the disease (-itis) of the bone marrow (myelos). (It would be simply appalling were we to forget to express our gratitude to George Kovac, who recommended today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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