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Pronunciation: dê-ment Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. (Transitive) To make someone demented, to drive mad, to craze. 2. (Intransitive) To develop dementia, to become mentally deranged or severely lose intellectual capacity, to show signs of dementia.

Notes: Here is a seldom heard word that underlies a much more frequently encountered noun derived from it, dementia. We occasionally hear the past participle of dement, demented: 'He is demented' meaning "He is mentally deranged". This word may be used as a somewhat outdated adjective or noun, as 'a dement child' or 'the senile dements'.

In Play: This verb may be used transitively: "Oscar was deluged by a host of fans, demented by the very sight of him." It may also be used intransitively: "As he aged, Oscar slowly sank into senility and demented considerably."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin demen(t)s "senseless", related to dementare "to craze, drive mad". This verb is made up of de "(out) of" + men(t)s "mind" + -are, a verbal suffix. De, of course, remained in all Romanic languages in the sense of "of" with little if any change. Men(t)s went on to become words that English borrowed as mental, mentor, and mention. It also became a suffix, which English assimilated from its many Latinate borrowings like comment, government, assignment. (Thanks for today's unusually Good Word are due Sue Gold, a dean and teacher at Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania.)

Dr. Goodword,

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