• emulate •
em-yê-layt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To strive to equal or excel by imitation. 2. To rival, to compete with at the same activity.
Notes: The first thing to note is that emulate is not a synonym of imitate. The latter simply means "to copy". The former means "to copy with the intent to rival or excel". Emulate is the root of a panoply of derivations. Emulation is the act of emulating, and emulator refers to someone who emulates. We have our choice of two active adjectives, emulative or emulatory, and one passive adjective, emulable "capable of being emulated". Don't forget to drop the verbal suffix -ate if you use the last.
In Play: Remember, emulate is not a synonym of imitate: "Abel Mann did not wish to merely imitate the president he replaced, but to emulate him." Keep in mind, too, that this word may mean "rival": "I thought that no one would ever emulate the acting skills of Meryl Streep, but then along came Cate Blanchett."
Word History: Today's word was built on aemulatus, the past participle of the Latin verb aemulari "to rival, strive to excel". This verb, in turn, was derived from aemulus "striving, rivaling", also a noun meaning "a rival". The noun originated in the Proto-Indo-European derived form aim-olo. The root of this word, aim-, also produced Latin imago, imagin- "image". English borrowed this word twice, as image and imagine, displaying, once again, its unemulable skill at scrounging words from Romance languages. (Today's Good Word was recommended by the inimitable William Hupy, to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.)
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