ê-gree-jês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Flagrantly bad, outrageously offensive.
Notes: Today's is a highly vowelled word, containing all the vowels of the alphabet except A but doubling up on E to compensate for the omission. Try to keep them in order. The meaning of egregious goes beyond that of flagrant and refers only to something excruciatingly flagrant. The noun is egregiousness and the adverb, egregiously.
In Play: We hope that nothing egregious ever happens to you, but if it does, today's Good Word will stand you in good stead to talk about it: "Referring to the archbishop as 'dude' was such an egregious error of judgment, I can't believe I heard you say it!" Remember, the sense of today's word goes beyond even outrageous: "When I told Ally Katz that Fairchild had died in a car accident over the weekend, her egregious response was to ask if she could have his company parking space."
Word History: Today's Good Word started out in life with a much more gleaming meaning. It is an English makeover of Latin egregius "outstanding, exceptional" from ex- "out of, from" + grex (greg+s) "the herd," i.e. "standing out from the herd." Of course, that sense is rather ambiguous since good or bad behavior separates us from the herd; over time the implication has slid from standing out in a good sense to standing out in a bad sense. The root here, greg-, is visible in a series of other English words referring metaphorically to herding: congregate from con- "together, with" + greg implies gathering as a herd, segregate from se- "apart" + greg implies separation from the herd, and aggregate from ad "to(ward)" + greg implies adding to the herd. (At no time did Susan Lister stand out more from the herd than when she sent us sterling Good Words like today's. May you rest in peace, Susan, your name shines on.)
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