• excruciate •
ek-skru-shee-ayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To torment, to torture, to inflict severe physical or mental on someone.
Notes: Today's Good Word is probably most often heard in the redundant phrase excruciating pain, in other words, extremely painful pain. The participle, excruciating, is used freely as an adjective, but there is an independent noun, excruciation. The agent noun, excruciator, is very rarely used but stands ready if needed.
In Play: While torture applies to systematic physical maltreatment, today's word refers to more casual torment: "Mallory seemed to enjoy excruciating his guests with his accordion." The torment may be mental or physical: "Although Pamela felt quite fashionable at the cotillion, her new shoes excruciated her toes all night."
Word History: Today's word comes from the past participle of Latin excruciare "to torture out, crucify". It is based on ex "out" + cruciare "to crucify", a verb based on crux (cruc-s) "cross", also used by English as the crux of a problem. Since the original root behind crux meant "bent, crooked", we might think crux related to English crook. However, the [k] sounds would have been reduced to [h] or have vanished entirely in English, so no connection can be drawn. (We must be straight with Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, however, and thank him for suggesting today's Good Word, lest our oversight in any way excruciate him.)
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