Printable Version
Pronunciation: dêk-tail Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Easily extruded or pounded into a specific shape. 2. Malleable, pliable, easily shaped. 3. Easily influenced or persuaded, pliable, suggestible.

Notes: This Good Word supports an adverb, ductilely and a handsome noun, ductility. A variant of it, ductible, is floating around, but we recommend you avoid it. It probably arose as a result of the confusion of ductile with deductible.

In Play: Originally, this word applied to metals and other soft, pliable materials that can be "led" into shape (see the History): "Ella Kopter discovered the hard way that her SUV is more ductile than a telephone pole." (Ella's OK, by the way. A few cuts and bruises.) But the more interesting use for this word is to indicate the ease with which you can adjust someone's mind, "Palmer is so ductile, we actually convinced him to check the stores downtown for a No. 7 shelf stretcher."

Word History: Today's soft word descended from Middle English ductil, nicked from Old French, which inherited it from Latin ductilis, an adjective from ductus, the past participle of ducere "to lead". The original root was PIE deuk- "to lead", which came into Old Germanic as teuhan, the father of German ziehen "to draw, pull". In Old English it appeared as togian "to draw, drag", on its way to becoming today's tug. But Old English also had another form, tiegan "to bind (draw tight)", which went on to become tie, while its past participle remained as tight "drawn securely". Of course, English borrowed many Latin words with this root, including duke (originally a leader), duct (which leads or conducts air from place to place), and educate. The last word came from Latin educare "to lead out, bring up" e(x) "out (of) + ducere "to lead", a kind of leading out into the world.

Dr. Goodword,

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