• feracious •
fê-ray-shês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Fruitful, fertile, prolific, producing abundantly.
Notes: Here is a word seldom heard since the 19th century. Its rarity, no doubt, has something to do with its stark similarity to ferocious, a word with which it has nothing to do. It came with a noun, feracity which, again, barely made it up to the 18th century.
In Play: Today's contributor and I think this is another word deserving rescue. We can use it in sentences like this one: "The lowlands of Pennsylvania are feracious, supporting every type of flora and fauna, esculent or not." However, it may be used figuratively, too: "Sarah Belam is a woman with a feracious mind, teeming with plausible ideas."
Word History: Today's Good Word is based on Latin ferax (ferac-s) "fruitful, productive". This adjective is based on ferre "to bear, carry support", found in many English borrowings, such as fertile, transfer, refer, and so on. The root fer- was converted from Proto-Indo-European bher-/bhor- "carry, bear", origin of English bear in the sense of "carry, support". English birth and burden also descended from the same PIE root. English bring came via Proto-Germanic brengan from PIE bher- + enk- "to reach". Paraphernalia was borrowed from Greek paraphernalis "related to the parapherna", a woman's property beyond her dowry. This word is composed of para- "beyond" + pherne "dowry", a word inherited by Greek from the same PIE word, bher-. (We owe a debt of gratitude to the feracious mind of Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, an editor of the Good Words, for contributing this word to the series.)
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