• habitable •
hæ-bid-ê-bêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Allowing or fit for human life, that may be lived in, inhabitable!
Notes: Today's Good Word has a synonym, inhabitable, that looks like an antonym. What's going on? The answer is revealed in today's Word History but, in the meantime, remember that habitable and inhabitable mean the same thing. Uninhabitable is the antonym of both words. A person living in a habitable region is either a habitant or inhabitant of that region. Of course, an inhabited region can only be a habitat and the verb inhabit is not the same as the noun, habit.
In Play: Today's word usually refers to the environmental status of land: "The property in Lollapalooza, Florida, purchased by Kelly Green was eminently habitable for alligators and other reptiles but less accommodating to warm-blooded beings." However, it works just as well for interior environments: "Willi May-Kitt found a room in town when his dorm room became no longer habitable."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us via French, as usual, from Latin, this time habitabilis "habitable", from habitare "to dwell". Habitare is a variant of habere "to have, possess, own", since the upper classes, at least, usually dwell on property they own. Latin used the preposition in "in" as a prefix despite the fact that it was spelled and pronounced identically with the negative prefix in-. Inhabitable comes from the verb inhabitare with the preposition in—not the negative prefix—plus habitare. This works because the place where we dwell is a place "in" which we dwell. (We're happy that the place Doug Vatier inhabits provides him with a source of words as good as the one he suggested for today. Barbara Kelly contributed the name "Kelly Green".)
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