Printable Version
Pronunciation: el-bo Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. (Noun) The joint between the forearm and upper arm. 2. (Noun) Anything with a bend or angle, such as a pipe joint or a river. 3. (Verb) To thrust with the elbow, as 'to elbow your way through a crowd'. 4. (Verb) Force out of the way, to dismiss, as 'elbowed aside in the ratings war'.

Notes: elbowNative English words have few derivational possibilities, and elbow is no exception. It is a regular verb, i.e. elbows, elbowed, elbowing. It participates in several compounds, the most interesting of which is elbow-grease "energetic labor" and elbowroom "sufficient space".

In Play: The figurative uses of today's word are more interesting than the literal sense: "When Shep Herder asked for a raise, he was given the old elbow." The verbal sense of this word is more interesting: "Jazz has been elbowed out of most radio stations in favor of rap and hip-hop."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a purely Germanic word from Old Germanic elino-bugon "bend of the forearm". Elino ended up on Old English as eln, today ell "right-angle bend" and the name of the letter L. So, elbow started out in Old English as eln-boga. Boga came from PIE bheug- "to bend". It went on to become bow in English, båga "curve, bow" in Swedish, buigen "curve, bow" in Dutch, and biegen "to bend, bow, lean" in German. "Elbow" in Germanic languages today is elleboog in Dutch, Ellbogen in German, albue in Danish and Norwegian, olnbogi in Icelandic, and armbåga in Swedish. (Let's not give Eileen Opiolka the elbow but thank her for a great find in today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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