Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-dê-tyud, æ-tê-tyud Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Posture, bearing, pose. 2. Outlook, manner of addressing things, disposition towards things. 3. Aggressive or arrogant disposition.

Notes: Words often take on a pejorative sense, and today's Good Word is no different: if you simply 'have an attitude', that attitude is aggressive or arrogant. The adjective accompanying this word is attitudinal. Those who study attitudes—yes, there are such—are known as attitudinarians. To attitudinize is to assume one or more attitudes in either sense: (a) to pose or posture, or (b) to affect self-conscious deportment.

In Play: The original meaning of attitude (1.) is the one we least hear today: "She assumed an attitude of anger and disgust—arms akimbo, brows furrowed, lips tight." The second meaning is certainly the most popular: "The American attitude toward produce in the market is that if it isn't perfect, throw it away."

Word History: English snipped a copy of French attitude somewhere in the 17th century. French picked it up from Italian attitudine "disposition, posture" from Late Latin aptitudo, which English adapted from the source for its aptitude. The Latin word is built on aptus "apt", which English also borrowed. Aptus is the past participle of apere "to fasten, bind, fit", hence "suitable". Copula is perhaps a Latin reduction of co- "(together) with" + an earlier word apula "band, bond". Connotations of "arrogant, uncooperative" developed in the slang of the 1960s. (Today we thank Tony Bowden of Merry Old, whose healthy attitude toward words led him to suspect that today's might be a Good One.)

Dr. Goodword,

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