Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-bru Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. (Obsolescent) To soak, steep in, or saturate. 2. (Obsolescent) To discolor or stain.

Notes: If you prefer, you may spell today's Good Word embrue, as well. The noun is imbruement or embruement. It is easy to confuse this word with imbue "to saturate thoroughly". Imbrue doesn't imply quite the thoroughness of the soaking that imbue does, and imbue doesn't suggest staining, as does imbrue. You can be imbued with love for your country (not imbrued) but imbrued (stained) with the guilt of some crime.

In Play: This word is generally used as a participle "imbrued with" as, "Vincent singed his eyebrows when he tried to start the charcoal in his barbie with a rag imbrued with gasoline." Metaphorically, imbrue is most closely associated with blood, "The hands of Hitler were imbrued with the blood of millions of innocent victims." It is a lovely word on the brink of extinction. Let's pull it from the clutches of time.

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on one of the most common Indo-European words, so it has undergone many changes across IE languages. It was borrowed from Old French embreuver "soil, spatter", probably borrowed from Italian imbevere "to absorb", ultimately from Latin imbibere "to drink, imbibe". The Latin verb bibere "to drink" was formed from the PIE root poi-/pei- "to drink", which reappeared in Russian Poi! "Drink!" from pit' "to drink". We also find pivo "beer" in several Slavic languages from the same root. In Greek it emerged as pinein "to drink", in Albanian as pi "I drink, and also in Latin as potus "a drink", underlying potabilis "drinkable, potable". But in Latin the [p] also changed to [b], and the root was then reduplicated as a prefix; that is, the root was copied as a prefix: bi-bib(i)+ere. Later on, the second [b] turned into a [v], then Old French added the suffix -age, producing bevrage from beivre "to drink" (today boire), which English interpreted as beverage (pronounced bevrage).

Dr. Goodword,

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