Printable Version
Pronunciation: ai-di-lik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Beautiful, serene, without fault; perfect in all respects. 2. Related to a serenely beautiful, perfect rural or pastoral setting.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes from a noun, idyll, that we have not quite decided how to spell, so idyl is OK, too. Someone who writes idyllic literature or paints idyllic pictures is an idyllist, who is given to idyllism [ai-dêl-iz-êm] (not idealism [ai-dee-êl-iz-êem]). Living the perfect life is living idyllically (the adverb).

In Play: Hiding inside the meaning of idyllic is the sense of serenity and tranquility: "Yesterday was such an idyllic autumn day that we opened the patio doors to watch the bright yellow leaves of our maple tree flutter to the lawn and form a pond of gold around its trunk." But the true measure of this word is perfection: "As best I can tell, June McBride and William Arami have an absolutely idyllic relationship."

Word History: English borrowed this word from Latin idyllium. Latin borrowed it from Greek eidyllion, "(cute) little form, image". The Greek word is the diminutive of eidos "form, image", derived from the verb idein "to see". The original meaning of eidyllion, then, was a cute image of rural life in a poem. The root of idein is id, formerly weid- "to see" in Proto-Indo-European. The W disappeared in Greek but it became V in Latin, giving that language video "I see" and the root for our words vision and video. You might have noticed in words like photograph and kleptomaniac that Greek adds an O between two words in its compound nouns. So, when eidos was added to words in Greek, the result was -oeides. It was used so much and so often in Greek compounds that it finally became a suffix, which we borrowed as -oid, seen now in android, humanoid, and trapezoid. (Writing up the Good Word is pure pleasure with an absolutely idyllic suggestion like this one from Rebecca Casper.)

Dr. Goodword,

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