Printable Version
Pronunciation: hek-tik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Feverishly active and confused, as a hectic day. 2. Feverish, related to a persistent fever, especially recurrent fevers accompanying tuberculosis.

Notes: Today's Good Word is, unfortunately, much too necessary these days. It has an adjective, hectically (don't forget to add the semantically empty suffix -al- before the -ly). There is no grammatical reason why we shouldn't join those on the Web who use hecticity as a noun for this word, but the clunkier hecticness is the only one you will find in a major dictionary.

In Play: The smallest things can send our lives into a hectic state: "When the mouse ran across the office floor, things got as hectic as a square dance with a hiccupping caller." The largest things can also lead to similar states: "The Democratic primary has gotten so hectic that most voters can't sort it out."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated in the Greek adjective hektikos "continuous, habitual; consumptive". This adjective came from the noun hexis "habit", itself from the verb ekhein "to have, hold, persist." European physicians of the Middle Ages applied this word to fevers that were constant over the course of consumption, the old term for tuberculosis. Today's meaning ostensibly arose under the influence of the figurative sense of feverish. Once hectic was firmly established as a medical word for "fever", e.g. hectic cheeks "feverish cheeks", it led to phrases like hectic activities "feverish activities" in parallel fashion. So far as we know, Kipling led the way in this transition by using the word in today's sense in his 1904 novel Traffics and Discoveries.

Dr. Goodword,

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