Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-swayj Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To soothe, mitigate, mollify, make easier, as to assuage someone's grief. 2. To satisfy, relieve, allay, appease, as to assuage a thirst. 3. To pacify, becalm, to lay to rest, as to assuage someone's fears.

Notes: The noun derived from this verb is assuagement, and there would seem to be no adjective. However, the adjective accompanying assuade "to urge persuasively", assuasive, has so often been misused as the adjective for assuage, that most dictionaries have abandoned attempts at protecting it from the influence of assuage. The American Heritage Dictionary lists this adjective as "soothing, calming", while the Oxford English Dictionary lists its meaning as "soothingly persuasive". I suppose we may use it in either of these senses today.

In Play: This word is most often used in the sense of soothing and relieving a strong emotion, such as anger, grief, or disappointment: "Nothing could assuage the disappointment of Rosetta Stone at losing her job as a translator at the United Nations." This meaning easily leans over to the sense of satisfaction or appeasement: "After a football game, Hardy Belcher could easily eat three medium pizzas or two large ones without assuaging his hunger."

Word History: This Good Word, as you might have guessed from the suffix -age, came over from French. Old French contained a verb, no longer with us, assouagier, which must have come from a Vulgar (street) Latin verb assuaviare "to sweeten, make more palatable", made up of ad- "(up) to" + suavis "sweet, delightful". The root of suavis was originally suad-, pronounced [swad-], the same root that produced English sweet. In German it resulted in süß "sweet", the more recent spelling of suess, so close to the pseudonym of that sweet writer of children's books, Dr. Seuss. The D changed to V in Latin, however, resulting in suavis, which turned out to be suave "agreeable" in French, whence it was borrowed by English as suave "sophisticated".

Dr. Goodword,

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