• commode •
kê-mod • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A toilet, potty, crapper. 2. A chair concealing a chamber pot. 3. A low chest of drawers or chiffonier. 4. A woman's headdress fashionable in the 17th-18th centuries, with a wire frame from which streamers descended over the shoulders.
Notes: Here is a word whose sense has devolved from a decorative piece of living room furniture to a secretive, unadorned porcelain pot where we do our most private, personal business. The adjective commode "convenient, suitable, opportune" has retained the original Latin sense, however far the nominal sense has wandered from its original course.
In Play: One example is enough for the most popular sense of today's word: "Billy, please flush the commode when you finish doing your business!" According to the OED, the adjective use is obsolete, but it still sounds so nice: "Could I call you back later at a more commode time?"
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from French commode, an adjective meaning "convenient, suitable", used as a noun, passed down from Latin commodus "proper, fit, convenient". This word was built from com- "(together) with" + modus "measure, manner". Latin inherited modus from the PIE word med-/mod- "(take an appropriate) measure", source also of English mete (out) and meet. The E-variant turned up in Latin mederi "to look after, heal", which underlies the English borrowed words medicine, medical and remedy. Latin also inherited the O-variant for its moderari "to keep within measure", which English borrowed as moderate. (Today's Good Word was a suggestion of Patricia Castellanos of Montevideo, Uruguay, a native speaker of Spanish but an English and French translator who has recommended many fascinating words for this series since 2005.)
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