Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-pre-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A drop, dip; a downward turn, condition, or position. 1. [Geology] A large dip in the surface of the earth, a caved-in hollow. 2. [Economics] A devastating downturn in business activity with high unemployment and falling prices. 3. [Psychology] A downward turn in the spirits, an inescapable sadness or sorrow. 4. [Meteorology] A drop in barometric pressure. 5. [Astronomy] The distance of a celestial body below the horizon.

Notes: We like to keep the Good Words light and positive, but this word is too fascinating and topical to overlook. Few other words in English have so many different meanings determined by the area of specialization in which they are used. All the meanings above are connected by the sense of a downward or lower trend as opposed to an upward inclination. This word is the noun from the verb depress "to push or force down" and carries with it an adjective, depressive "inclined to be or move down".

In Play: The very thought of another economic depression many pessimistic economists are warning us about is enough to put me in a psychological depression, wanting to crawl into a geological depression and cover my head. These are depressing times in more ways than one, but I hope no one reading this is led into a psychological depression by the threat of an economic one.

Word History: English borrowed the verb depress, that today's Good Word is based on Old French depresser "to push down". This verb is the French version of Late Latin depressare "push down frequently" from Classical Latin deprimere "press down." Deprimere is made up of de- "(down) from" + premere "to press". The past participle of this verb is pressus "pressed down", which English borrowed as press in all its meanings. It is related to Old French preignant "pressing", which English also borrowed as pregnant. (The good doctor is kept from depression by the friendship of such good old cyberfriends as Chris Stewart, who has been reading, suggesting, and discussing the Good Words since they were the Words of the Day at

Dr. Goodword,

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