Printable Version
Pronunciation: ik-skres-êns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Abnormal, disfiguring outgrowth on an animal or vegetable body. 2. An unattractive or unwanted accretion or extension, unnecessary part.

Notes: This word is the noun based on the adjective excrescent, produced by the verb excresce "to grow forth, out of". Its pronunciation may be explained by the simple addition of the suffix -s, since [ekskresents] is the same as the spelling excrescence. It comes with a synonym, excrescency.

In Play: Many of us have tiny excrescences on our bodies: "Sheila tried to conceal all the excrescences—warts, moles, and unnamables—on her body." But the sense of excrescence has now metaphorically expanded: "American mystery thrillers are filled with an overwhelming excrescence of detail in murders, splashing blood, closeups of bullet holes, dismembered body parts, all in disgusting superfluity."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a French modification of Latin excrescentia "abnormal growths", from excrescen(t)s, the present participle of excrescere "grow out", created from ex "out (from)" + crescere "to grow". Latin built crescere from the PIE word ker-/kor- "to grow", origin also of Greek koros "boy" and kore "girl". With metathesis, the same PIE word went into the making of creatus, the past participle of creare "to beget, produce, create", which English transformed into create. Ker-/kor- also produced Latin cerealis "of grain", originally "of Ceres", the goddess of agriculture. Since PIE [k] became [h] in the Germanic languages, we are not surprised to find Hirse "millet" in German and hirsi "millet" in Icelandic. In Lithuanian it emerged in šerti "to feed". (Now let's give Daniel Obertance a round of applause for recommending today's beautiful if semantically abnormal Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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