• fillip •
fi-lip • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A movement made by curving a finger against the thumb and then suddenly releasing it. 2. (Noun) A stimulus, an act that attracts attention or arouses interest. 3. (Verb) To flip, to move a small object with a sharp motion of the fingers.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the immediate ancestor of the verb flip, reduced permanently by 'LVS'. This reduction follows the same route as chirrup, currently more often written simply chirp—and pronounced appropriately differently.
In Play: Fillips at one time were a common way to capture someone's attention: "I was about to mention the birthday party to Phillip when Agnes Payne gave me a rather painful fillip on the arm as a reminder that the party was supposed to be a surprise." Used as a verb, this word still implies the finger motion described in Meaning No. 1: "As I whispered sweet nothings into Mala Fortuna's ear, she nonchalantly filliped crumbs across the table."
Word History: US dictionaries are inclined toward explaining today's word as an imitation of the sound a fillip makes. Other dictionaries list its origin as a mystery. It does appear that fillip was in use a century before flip, so flip would seem to be a reduction of today's Good Word. The meaning of flip has also broadened to mean "turn over" as well as "to put into motion using any finger", as to flip a coin (using the thumb against the forefinger). (Today's Good Word is a fillip from Mark Angney of the English faculty at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, reminding us how interesting this word is.)
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