Printable Version
Pronunciation: fæ-til-ê-kwint Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Prophetic, fortune-telling, sooth-saying. 2. Talking about fate.

Notes: This rarely used word has a rather large family. The action of prophesying or fortune-telling is fatiloquency or simply fatiloquy. Another word for "prophet" or "fortune-teller" is fatiloquist. You may use this word among those with rich and arcane vocabularies, or in a situation where a dictionary is close at hand.

In Play: It is rather difficult to imagine a conversation into which today's word would fit: "Gastromancy is rather a sort of fatiloquent after-dinner gurgling of the stomach." I can think of real situations in which it is applicable: "The 24-hour news cycle has given rise to fatiloquent reporting. When there isn't enough news to fill 24 hours, reporters resort to surmising about how the news stories will play out in the future."

Word History: Today's Good Word was originally a compound in Latin, fatiloquus, based on the root of fatum "fate" + loquen(t)s + the present participle of loqui "to speak". The Latin word was often used as the word of the gods, which often predicted a person's future lot or fate. The feminine of this participle, fata, was used in Vulgar (street) Latin as a noun, fata "fairy", which went on to become the Old French word fay (today fée). This word was borrowed by Middle English as such, whence it went on to become a feminine name. Loqui derives from the PIE root tolkw- "to speak", which apparently metathesized to tlokw-, where the [t] could not be pronounced in Latin. In Russian we find it unmetathesized in tolk "sense", whose plural is, oddly, tolki "talk, rumors". (Now let's bow our heads for a moment in gratitude to Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, one of the long-time Good Word editors, for recommending today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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