Printable Version
Pronunciation: hyu-bris Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Extreme egotism, arrogant overbearing pride.

Notes: Today's word is a rarity: an English word spelled exactly as it is pronounced. It has been spelled and pronounced hybris in the past, so don't be surprised at this spelling in works published before the middle of the 20th century. The adjective made from hubris is hubristic, with a spurious T tossed in. Don't forget to toss in a spurious suffix, -al, before the adverb ending, -ly: hubristically.

In Play: Hubris is usually fueled by great wealth or power: "The invasion of Ukraine resulted from the hubris of a president who thinks himself above the law." However, wealth is not a sine qua non of hubris: "Where did William Arami get the hubris to think that he was good enough to marry an heiress like Portia Carr?"

Word History: Hubris (or hybris) is a Greek word meaning "insolence, wanton violence". Its exact origin is difficult to pin down, but it is probably the offspring of an ancient compound made up of ud- "out" + bri- "heavy, violent". The root ud- went into the making of German aus "out" and English out itself. The Russian verbal prefix vy- "out", as in vykhodit' "to go out" also came out of this word, believe it or not. The root bri- turned into Latin brutus "heavy; stupid", from which English took brute. It is also visible in brigand, derived from Old Italian briga "strife" and Serbian briga "concern, care", as 'Baš me briga' "It's no concern of mine'." (It would be the height of hubris to forget to thank David Ross for suggesting today's very topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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