Printable Version
Pronunciation: bil-yês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Containing, like, or otherwise related to bile. 2. Suffering from gastric discomfort or disorder. 3. Grouchy, grumpy, peevish, ill-humored or otherwise ill disposed.

Notes: Today's word is interesting because its most recent meaning (3. above) has strayed so far from the original, "related to bile". The adverb has the unexciting form biliously and the noun, biliousness.

In Play: Suffering from biliousness seems to have abated noticeably in recent times. It was a major problem in the 19th century: "I see no point in asking that bilious old man for a donation toward the spring festival." He may be quite generous, but he is too grumpy to speak with. Let's keep this fine word alive for situations like this: "Susan Wynns came in a bit bilious today after losing her first case in court yesterday."

Word History: Today's Good Word came to us, as usual, via French from Latin bilis "bile, gall". Where the Latin word came from is something of a mystery. The semantic connection goes back to a day when moods and personalities were presumed to be caused by the 'humors', the fluids of the body. Too much bile was thought to make us grouchy. (Lest we leave him a bit bilious, let us share our gratitude with Jeremy Busch for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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