Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahr-min-ê-tiv, kahr-mê-nay-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Capable of relieving gas in the stomach. 2. (Noun) A medication capable of relieving gas in the stomach and reducing the resultant eructation and flatulence.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a member of a class of adjectives ending on -ive that may be used as nouns referring to medications, like additive, decongestive, and palliative. It is akin to the obsolete verb carminate "to reduce wind in the bowels", which has an equally obsolete noun, carmination, referring to such reduction.

In Play: Carminatives are known to allay all the symptoms of stomach gas: "Perhaps a well-chosen carminative would improve the smell of your house." Carminatives are chiefly obtained from vegetation like ginger root, cardamoms, anise seeds, and caraway seeds: "Sue Flay always cooked with as many carminatives as her recipes would tolerate to reduce the after-dinner borborygmic cacophony at her table."

Word History: Carminative was borrowed from Old French as carminatif. Old French created this word from Latin carminatus, the past participle of carminare "to card (comb) wool" + suffix -if (feminine -ive). It is based on carmen "card (for carding wool)", a word which the Romans created from carere "to card". What is the relation of carding to relieving the innards of gas? Carminative, according to Hensleigh Wedgwood in his A Dictionary of English Etymology (1859-1865), is "[a] medical term from the old theory of humours. The object of carminatives is to expel wind, but the theory was that they dilute and relax the gross humours from whence the wind arises, combing them out like knots in wool." (Lest we cause him to need a carminative, let us all thank Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, one of the Good Word's loyal editors.)

Dr. Goodword,

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