Printable Version
Pronunciation: eg Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To incite, encourage, or goad a person into doing a thing they are reluctant to do.

Notes: Today's Good Word is most frequently used with the adverb, on, as 'to egg someone on'. It is not related to the noun egg but is related to edge, as 'to edge forward'. The 16th and 17th centuries saw the occasional use of the personal noun egger, but this term did not escape that period.

In Play: The basic meaning of today's word is to goad someone to do something they are reluctant to do: "Why do I have to egg you on to do your homework every day?" Oftentimes the eggee knows better than the egger: "Sheila had to egg Mike Raffone to sing a karaoke and, as it turned out, Harry did it better." (Mike was left with egg on his face.)

Word History: Today's Good Word has nothing to do with eggs. Rather it was borrowed from the language of the Vikings, Old Norse eggja "to goad on, incite" from egg "edge". The Proto-Indo-European ak- "sharp" entered Old English, another Germanic language, as ecg "sharp side". This word came down to Modern English as edge. The verbal sense of edge apparently arose from a confusion of this word with the noun egg, since (to) edge implies slow movement. The PIE root also became Old English æhher "ear, spike, ear of grain", now simply ear. In Greek it turned up as aki "point", in Latin as acus "needle", a sharp object, which explains its presence in such borrowed words as acid and acrid. A word containing this root that might surprise you is akrobatis "acrobat". This Greek compound is composed of acros "high, topmost" + bat- "walk": the first acrobats were tightrope walkers. The meaning of acros apparently reached "high" by first passing through "apex, pinnacle". (No one had to egg on Gene DuBose to report today's highly Good Word to the proper authorities, so let's all thank him.)

Dr. Goodword,

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