Printable Version
Pronunciation: i-mend Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To improve by editing, to make corrections, to mend flaws in a written document.

Notes: Since amendments are added to a bill in Congress, it is easy to think that amend means "to attach". In fact, both amend and emend mean pretty much the same thing, "to improve by editing". Amend means to improve a written document by adding something to it. Emend means removing all the bad stuff. Amending a document results in an amendment but emending something results in an emendation. Another related word, mend, was created by simply dropping the A on amend and allowing it to refer to anything that's broken.

In Play: We usually only emend written material: "Hugh Jeego emends all the articles submitted to his magazine by adding references to himself and the magazine." The implication, of course, is that the material is made better, though that is always a matter of opinion: "After hours of emendation, Milka Macau concluded that her report to the dairy association showed no improvement over the original."

Word History: Today's Good Word made its way to us from Latin emendare, comprising ex "(away) from" + mendum "fault, defect". Old French changed this word to amender, giving English an opportunity it never misses—to borrow the same word twice as it changes form over time. Latin mendum came from the same source as Sanskrit minda "blemish", Old Irish mennar "stain", and Welsh mann "sign, mark". The Latin word mendum also underlies mendax (mendacs) "lying, deceitful", source of English mendacious, and mendicant "beggar", both of which the Romans thought resulted from some fault or defect. (Time now to emend today's Good Word by amending a note of gratitude to John Young for suggesting it.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!