Printable Version
Pronunciation: heb-dahm-ê-dêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Weekly, occurring or changing once every 7 days. 2. Fickle, changeable.

Notes: You might be surprised to know that today's word, however useless it might seem, belongs to a large and strong family. It is the adjective of hebdomad "set of seven, week". Another adjective, hebdomadic, means "pertaining to the days of the week". Monks who take weekly turns in performing holy services are called hebdomaries.

In Play: You may feel reluctant to put this Good Word in play at home or at work, but there are references for it in both places (mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, watering flowers, and the like). Every week contains a lucky 7If your husband ignores you on the weekend, try: "Rocky, make sure all your hebdomadal chores are done before you turn on the football game." Well, that takes care of one weekend. Weekly can be interpreted as too frequently in some contexts: "I'm so tired of hebdomadal politicians with a new position on every issue every week." That is how this word picked up the sense 'fickle'.

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin hebdomad- "a set of seven, a week". The Proto-Indo-European root for "seven" was something like *septm-. This explains Latin septem "seven" right off the bat, as well as Greek hebdomos "seventh", since [t] and [d] are nearly identical. In the Germanic languages, the [t] was lost and the [m] became [n], a closely related nasal consonant. The [p] then took many turns, becoming [b] in German (sieben), [f] in Old English (seofan) and, finally, [v] in Modern English. In Russian, everything between the [e] and [m] disappeared: sem' "seven". Yes, that is the Latin word for "seven" in September, the seventh month in the Roman calendar. (Robert Piazza clearly loves unusual time words, and now it is our time to thank him for the Good Word he brought us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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