Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahr-gyut Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Sharp in taste or sound (shrill). 2. Mentally sharp, witty, bright.

Notes: Today's Good Word is good because it won't go away. It has rarely been used for 200 years but still pops up from time to time, usually in the sense of "witty". You may use it adverbially with the usual suffix, argutely, or convert it into a noun in the usual fashion: arguteness.

In Play: Referring to taste and sound, today's word implies an unpleasant sharpness: "The symphony played beautifully last night though I thought the trumpets were a bit argute." However, it refers to a very pleasant sharpness of mind: "After the concert, we enjoyed an argute conversation over coffee in the cafe next to the symphony hall."

Word History: This word devolved through French and Italian from Latin argutus "clear, sharp, keen", the past participle of arguere "to make clear". The meaning of the Latin verb has obviously changed radically over time. It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root arg- "bright, shining". That is it in Latin argentum "silver", whence English argentine "silvery, having silver" (via French). The brightness of the original word led to clarity in seeing things discussed (Latin arguere). The discussion, of course, had to be pointed (argue in the sense of "debate") and this led to the sense of quarreling that English argue has today. (Today's Good Word came from the argute mind of 'Grogie' of the Alpha Agora, which invites you to come and enjoy all of Grogie's discussions of words.)

Dr. Goodword,

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