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Pronunciation: bi-kêm-ing Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Present participle of become. 2. (Adjective) Fittingly attractive, felicitous, decorous, as 'becoming (on) a woman'. 3. (Adjective) Making the wearer more attractive, as 'a becoming coiffure'.

Notes: The present participle of become has long since become, like so many participles before it, an adjective. However, the sense of this participle has wandered farther of course than all others. The adverb is becomingly and the noun, becomingness. Its antonym is unbecoming.

In Play: This word is used to describe things that contribute to beauty; "She dresses becomingly, too; always in clothes that amplify her natural beauty." It may express the beauty itself: "June McBride's shyness is, in fact, just a very becoming modesty."

Word History: Today's Good Word started out as the present participle of the verb become. Become is made up of be- + come. The prefix be- once suggested a scattering or smearing: besprinkle, bespatter, besmear. It could also serve as a causative prefix meaning "to make, cause": befoul, befriend, belittle. It comes from PIE ambhi- "around, both (sides)", also the source of German um "around", Greek amphi "around, both sides", as in amphitheater, and Latin ambi- "around, both sides" as in ambidextrous. Come comes from PIE gwa-, gwem- "to go, come", which also produced German gehen and its cousin English go. It is also visible in Latvian gaju "I went", Latin venire "to come", and English wend, whose old past tense, went, became the past tense of go.

Dr. Goodword,

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