Printable Version
Pronunciation: kên-sais Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Tersely expressed, written or spoken with the smallest number of words.

Notes: If a text may be concise, of course, it may be written concisely (the adverb). Although we attribute conciseness to such texts, concision is a much lovelier word that expresses the same sentiment: a memo written with such concision that it was a pleasure to read.

In Play: Today's Good Word is the antonym of verbose and prolix: "Rhoda Book received a very pleasant letter from a publisher thanking her for submitting her 5000 page novel, but explaining that he expects manuscripts to be a bit more concise." Of course, even concision can be overdone: "Well, 'No,' is a very concise answer to my question, but it doesn't really provide me with any details for your refusal."

Word History: This Good Word is the English revision of Latin concisus, the past participle of concidere "to cut up", comprising com- "(together) with", used here as an intensive prefix + -cidere, a combining form of caedere "to hit, chop, strike down". We find this root in many words borrowed from Latin that imply cutting, incisor, the cutting tooth, incision, and decision, the act that cuts off debate. Since cutting and hitting were the primary means of slaying people prior to the invention of the gun, this word also came to mean "to kill". The same root produced a noun combining form, -cidium "killing", which underlies English words like homicide, suicide, and genocide. (Let us all now express our appreciation to Suzanne Mazel for her very concise suggestion that we run today's very Good Word. May we all write concisely henceforward.)

Dr. Goodword,

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