Printable Version
Pronunciation: kêm-pahs-ê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Possible together, in coexistence with something else.

Notes: Today's Good Word adds a touch of specificity to the sense of possible "possible with", possible with the Latin prefix com- "(together) with". The noun is compossibility and the adverb, compossibly.

In Play: The 2008 financial crash in the United States demonstrated that there are levels of greed that are not compossible with good management. But we needn't go to Wall Street to find areas of compossibility: "Gustav, I find you are generally a good roommate, so I hope that our different attitudes toward tidiness are compossible."

Word History: Today's word was created in the Late Latin period, just before Latin became Old French, the source of the English word. It is composed of com- "(together) with + possibilis "possible". The prefix com- in Latin is a variant of the preposition cum "(together) with", as in graduating cum laude "with praise (honors)". Look out for com- because the final M changes depending on the consonant it is connected to. That is it in con-demn, cor-rect, and col-lect. Possibilis is based on the modal verb posse "can, able to". The verb is related to potis "able, capable" from an earlier form meaning "strong, powerful". This explains the meaning of potent and potential, both based on the Latin word. The same root went into the making of Greek posis "husband" and Persian pasha from Old Persian pati- "master".

Dr. Goodword,

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