Printable Version
Pronunciation: fæk-to-têm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: I'll bet you thought this word had something to do with facts. Well, it doesn't. It means 1. "a jack-of-all-trades, an employee who does all kinds of work". 2. Anything which serves more than one purpose, such as a screwdriver which serves as a can-opener, a punch, as well as a screwdriver.

Notes: Factotumship is a rarely used abstract noun derived from factotum referring to the position of a factotum. It is the only family this word has. Remember, the final vowel is U; this word has nothing to do with totems.

In Play: "Jack-or-all trades" is the fundamental sense of today's Good Word: "Pat Agonia was secretary and general factotum for Duane Pipes and his plumbing company." The other use of this word refers to any multipurpose item: "Jody considers her car a factotum that serves as a school bus for the kids, a taxi for her friends, and a delivery truck for her business."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from the Medieval Latin phrase, fac totum "do everything", made up of fac "do", the imperative of facere "to do" + totum "all, everything", the neuter of totus. Facere comes from the same PIE word as English do and deed, dhe-/dho- "put, set". English don "to put on" originates from the same source, as does doom, originally meaning "judgment", something set in stone. Totus "all" seems to have come from PIE teuta- "tribe", origin of the name Teuton(ic) and underlying the English borrowing total. Totus went on to become French tout, as in tout de suite and Italian tutti, as in tutti-frutti.

Dr. Goodword,

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