Printable Version
Pronunciation: kêm-pen-di-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Comprehensive but succinct or brief.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the adjective accompanying the noun compendium "condensation of larger work, a digest". Of course it comes with an adverb, compendiously. There is also an abstract noun denoting the quality implied by today's word, compendiousness "comprehensiveness with brevity".

In Play: The basic sense of this word is "comprehensive but concise": "Miles Overland's narrative to the slide show of his trip to Canada was not as compendious as it might have been; consequently, most of us napped through it." However, in usage this word has drifted away from its sense of "comprehensive" and toward the sense of "brief": "Hooker Crooke gave a much too compendious report on his dealings with the bank, leaving many questions unanswered."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on Late Latin compendiosus, the adjective derived from Latin compendium "a shortening, a saving or gain". This word was derived from compendere "to weigh together", made up of com- "(together) with" + pendere "to weigh, hang". Latin got this word from Proto-Indo-European (s)pen- "draw, stretch, spin" with a Fickle S (sometimes there, sometimes not). In the Germanic languages like English, the S was generally preserved in such words as spin, from the time when spinning was done using a spindle hanging from one hand. But in Latin the S was generally lost, as we see in the English borrowings like pendulum, pendant and pansy. Pansy?! Yes, the figurative sense of weigh "to consider, think about" runs throughout Indo-European languages, and pansy is the English version of French pensée "thought, remembrance", a name in a semantic class with forget-me-not. (Let's keep our thank-you to Kathleen McCune—now of Sweden—compendious, for 'tis she who recommended it for today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!