Printable Version
Pronunciation: heed-ê-nist Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone whose life is devoted to pleasure and the avoidance of pain. 2. An adherent of the philosophy that anything pleasurable is good and anything painful, bad.

Notes: The stuff that drives a hedonist is hedonism. And it doesn't sound at all bad. However, many think that pain and suffering have an equally important place in life (the Russian novelist F. M. Dostoevsky first and foremost). The adjective here is hedonistic, but don't forget to insert the empty suffix -al when using it adverbially: hedonistically. A distant cousin of today's word is hedonic "pleasant, pleasurable", which has no philosophical implications.

In Play: A hedonist focuses his or her life on physical pleasures: "Jack Uzzi is a hedonist who ran though his inheritance in a year-long extravagance of gluttony, drinking, and other sensual indulgences." His indulgences would have broken the hedonometer—if only we had one. Those of us who find suffering difficult to escape generally consider today's Good Word pejorative: "Jessie Noff devoted his life to fighting the godless hedonism in North America."

Word History: Today's Good Word is not based on the teachings of Hedon, but on the Greek word hedone "pleasure", a word related to English sweet and German s! It all began with the Proto-Indo-European root swad- "sweet, pleasure" with an initial S that became H in ancient Greek as S often did back then. The S remained in Latin, however, where the root appears in the verb suadere "to urge", still visible in the English borrowings persuade and dissuade. It also went into the making of suavis "pleasant", which went on to become French suave. (It is a real pleasure, indeed, to again thank Mark Bailey for contributing such a sweet word for today's Good One.)

Dr. Goodword,

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