Printable Version
Pronunciation: flê-ji-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Brutal, vicious, atrocious, inclined toward heinous crimes. 2. Nasty, mean, irresponsibly wicked.

Notes: Remember, in words borrowed from Latin, [g] tends to be soft before the front vowels, [i] and [e] (vowels pronounced in the front of the mouth), so this [g] will be pronounced [j]. Before back vowels, [g] is generally pronounced hard in all English words: gorge, gurgle, garish. The adverb is flagitiously and the noun flagitiousness. (Flagitiosity has reared its ugly head a time or two, but hasn't stuck, thank heavens.)

In Play: Today's good bad word is difficult to joke about; its reference is very, very serious: "The flagitious regime of Saddam Hussein cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Iranians." However, as the second definition indicates, this meaning is softening a bit in use: "He was so flagitious as to criticize her hair when she had just left the beauty parlor."

Word History: If this word conjures up images of Indiana Jones cracking a whip above his head, it is because the Latin word for "whip" shares an origin with today's word. Flagitious came from the Latin adjective flagitiosus "shameful, disgraceful". This adjective rose up from flagitium "a shameful act, a protest", itself from flagitare "to importune, to demand vehemently". The point of origin is PIE *bhleg- "strike, hit", which also underlies Latin flagrum "whip". The same root provided Icelandic with blása and English with blow "act of hitting". (It would be bordering on the flagitious not to thank our Agoran of the Day, named appropriately enough, M. Henri Day, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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