Printable Version
Pronunciation: em-ê-nênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Prominent, standing out above or beyond all others. 2. Deeply respected and honored for some achievement.

Notes: Today's Good Word runs the risk of confusion with two other adjectives pronounced nearly identically. Imminent means "impending, about to occur", as the imminent appearance of a well-known pianist in our area. Immanent means "inherent, residing wholly within", especially within the mind, as belief in an immanent god that resides in the person. Both should be carefully distinguished from today's word in both spelling and meaning.

In Play: This is how you distinguish eminent and imminent: "The university was in the grip of excitement awaiting the imminent arrival of the eminent expert on the geology of stream channels, Dr. Wade Rivers." But as you balance these two words, don't run afoul of immanent: "Phil Anders is an eminent local lawyer with an immanent weakness for fast cars and women." Most women look for cover if they know Phil's arrival is imminent.

Word History: Middle English, from Latin eminens, eminent-, present participle of eminere "to stand out", based on e(x) "from" + minere "to jut out". The PIE root underlying minere is *men-/mon- "to jut out", which also gave us mouth, menace, and mountain, all things which jut in some sense. Mouth somehow lost the N from Old Germanic *munthaz over the years. This word shares a source with Latin mentum "chin", which is unrelated to the ment- in mental. Menace comes from Latin minae "projecting points, threats". The connection between "jutting" and "mountains" should be clear enough.

Dr. Goodword,

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