Printable Version
Pronunciation: -wêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (usually plural bowels) The intestine, gut as, 'the large bowel'. 2. The deep interior of something, as 'the bowels of a ship'. 3. (Obsolete) Pity, compassion, feeling, 'heart', as 'to have bowels of mercies'.

Notes: We have tried several adjectives based on this noun. Until the end of the 17th century bowelly meant "compassionate". Bowelled means "having bowels or recesses". Only one verb has stuck: to disembowel someone is to eviscerate them.

In Play: Today's Good Word is most often heard in the plural: "After dinner at Maud Lynn Cook's the bowels of the diners created a borborygmic symphony." In figurative use, bowel means not merely "interior" as most dictionaries proclaim, but "deepest interior": "Friedrich can always come up with some insult from the bowels of that perverse mind of his."

Word History: In Middle English this word was spelled buel or bouel, borrowed from French boel or bouel. It was a reduction of late Latin botellus "pudding, sausage", which on the street had already come to mean "small intestine". Botellus was the diminutive of botulus "sausage", which went into the making of botulism, the name of a food poisoning caused by sausage-shaped bacteria. Provençal and Italian kept the T in botellus, but reduced it to D, producing Provençal budel and Italian budello "intestines". French also had a word that simply reduced the T to D, but mysteriously replacing the L with N: boudin "blood sausage". English apparently borrowed this word as pudding. In the past pudding was a word that commonly referred to the stuffing inside intestine casings of sausage, e.g. English liver pudding. The visual similarity then led to the switch from savory flavor to sweetness. (I wouldn't blame George Kovac if he couldn't stomach the absence of appreciation for his suggestion of today's surprising Good Word. So, thank you, George.)

Dr. Goodword,

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