Printable Version
Pronunciation: ilk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Type, sort, kind. 2. (Scotland) Of the same place, territory, family, as 'Smith of that ilk' "Smith of the same family as we are talking about".

Notes: It's a miracle: an English word that is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. (Milk and silk are two others.) It only has ancient ancestors, perhaps still alive in parts of Scotland: ilka and ilkin are adjectives meaning "each, every", as "Ilka day makes you more precious to me."

In Play: This word is used far more often in referring to people: "I don't get along with people of Ivan Odor's ilk." It may, on the other hand, refer to anything: "Maseratis, Ferraris, and cars of that ilk are far out of my price range."

Word History: In Old English this word was ilca "the same", from Old Germanic i- + lik, comprising i-, (Gothic i-s "he") PIE pronoun root + Old English lic- "form, body; same". Lic- is also the origin of the English suffix -ly in such words as friendly "friend-like" and motherly "mother-like". Originally these words were compounds, with -lik becoming unaccented. When accented, it reached Modern English as like. The same Germanic root turned up in Swedish lik "body, corpse", Norwegian lik "figure", and Danish lig "corpse". In Proto-Germanic it picked up the prefix ga- "(together) with", which made it galika, ancestor of Modern German gleich "like" and the suffic -lich "-ly, -like". In Russian, however, it came to be lico "face", the basis of claims of human similarity. (We love people of Lew Jury's ilk, who send us suggestions for Good Word's of today's ilk.)

Dr. Goodword,

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