Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-pep-si-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Indigestion, poor or bad digestion (antonym of eupepsia "good digestion"). 2. Weakness, loss of appetite, and mild depression attributable to a malfunction of the stomach or other digestive organs.

Notes: Today's word is just what you need if you prefer words borrowed from Greek, like dyspepsia, over those borrowed from Latin, like indigestion. The Greek correlate of the Latin prefix dis- is dys-, found in such words as dysentery, dyslexia, and the archaic but still useful dysnomy "bad legislation, lawlessness". The fairly common adjective for today's Good Word is dyspeptic. Most US soft drinks originally were touted as tonics, good for digestion, so what better name than Pepsi-Cola. Well, maybe Coca-cola, suggestive of the secret ingredient in its original recipe (shhhh—cocaine).

In Play: Bottom line: today's Good Word is a surrogate for indigestion: "Marlin, if you don't stop drinking so many Pepsi-Colas during the day you're going to get dyspepsia!" That should be obvious. Today's word also implies the discomfort of an upset stomach and the grumpiness that often accompanies it: "I think Mildred may have a touch of dyspepsia today; when Max offered her a chocolate, she chased him out of her office." She also could just be having a bad hair day.

Word History: English borrowed this word from Greek dyspepsia, which had the same meaning. The Greek word comprised dys- "un-, bad" + -pepsia "digestion". The root of pepsia goes back to Proto-Indo-European pekw- "to cook", so we see that the Greeks made the connection between food and body heat. This root is most obvious in the Russian noun and verb pech', meaning either "an oven" or "to bake". We don't find this root in Germanic languages like English except in borrowings like peptic "related to digestion", as in peptic ulcer or eupeptic "promoting digestion", as 'eupeptic food', food easily digested. (Nothing prevents dyspepsia and promotes eupepsia better than an easily digestible Good Word like this one, suggested by Jan Arps of Greensboro, North Carolina.)

Dr. Goodword,

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