Printable Version
Pronunciation: -byê-list Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A fabulator, someone who writes or recounts fables, i.e. tales with a moral. 2. A fantastic liar, a wild inventor of falsehoods.

Notes: This word means "a storyteller" in both senses of the word story as it was used down South in my childhood. A fabulist is someone who fabulates fabulistic fabulisms fabulistically. Fabulous once meant "like a fable, beyond the usual range of facts", but today it is usually trivialized to the sense of "great, terrific, marvelous".

In Play: The first, literal, sense of this word is seldom seen outside literary criticism: "The 17th century fabulist Jean de La Fontaine thought his fables rules of human behavior." But the word has long since fled that domain: "In 2023 George Santos, an unabashed fabulist, captured the news networks' fancy with his smooth delivery of raft after raft of daily lies."

Word History: While today's Good Word was based on Latin fabula "moralistic story", fable is the French version of the same word. Fabulist is obviously fabul + -ist, an adjective and personal noun suffix. Latin added its suffixes to Proto-Indo-European bha- "to speak", which Sanskrit turned into bhanati "speaks", Armenian, into ban "word", Greek, into pheme "speech, voice" and phone "voice, sound", Icelandic into bæn "prayer", English into ban and banish, Russian, into basnya "fable", and Serbian, into basna "fable". English borrowed fame from Old French fame "fame, renown, rumor", passed down from Latin fama "talk, rumor, reputation", another word built on PIE bha-. (Let's all give Lew Jury a nod of gratitude for yet another topical and historically deep Good Word today.)

Dr. Goodword,

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