Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-fyus Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Spread out, not localized in one place, widely distributed. 2. (Style) Wordy, unfocused, verbose.

Notes: There is also a verb diffuse [di-fyuz], not to be confused with today's word, meaning "to spread in all directions" or "to dim, soften". The adverb for today's adjective is diffusely. The clunky noun is diffuseness; the lovelier diffusion is much preferred.

In Play: The first sense of today's word refers to the vaguely defined, unlocalized, "The pain in my leg is rather diffuse; it's hard to say exactly where it originates." The sense of vagueness, however, has migrated to the description of an unfocused writing or speech style, "Delores's explanations of our project were so diffuse, I signed her up for alphaDictionary's Good Word series." Now, there's a sure solution for the problem.

Word History: Diffuse comes to us from Old French diffus (feminine diffuse), which drifted down from Latin diffusus, the past participle of diffundere "to spread out pouring", composed of dis- "apart" + fundere "to pour, melt". Both stems of this verb appear in other English words. The infinitive stem appears in foundry, a place where metal is melted and poured, fondue "melted cheese", and fonts, which once were poured from melted lead. We see the past participle stem in refuse, infuse, and profuse. The original PIE stem was gheu-/ghou- "to melt, to pour", so in Germanic languages words of this origin begin with G: gust, from Old Norse gustr "a wind blast", gush, akin to Icelandic gusa "to gush" and geyser, from Old Norse geysa "to gush".

Dr. Goodword,

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