Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-ê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To kill as a sacrifice, especially by fire. 2. To sacrifice something of high value.

Notes: This word brings to my mind a photograph of a Buddhist monk immolating himself by fire in protest over the Vietnam war. But this word is more closely related to sacrificial fire than protest. Someone who immolates is an immolator who commits immolation. The adjective is immolative.

In Play: This is no word to play with: "The British in India tried to end the practice of suttee, whereby the wife was immolated on the funeral pyre of her husband." However, fire does not have to be involved: "Weiner immolated his political career with not just one, but two sexting scandals—the second as he ran for mayor of New York."

Word History: English created today's Good Word from Latin immolatus, the past participle of immolare "to sacrifice" originally "to sprinkle with sacrificial meal", as Romans did before immolating sacrificial animals. This word was created from an assimilated form of in- "in, on" + mola "meal", the noun associated with molere "to grind". Mola was inherited from PIE mele-/mola- "to grind", source also of English meal, mill, and molar, Dutch malen "to grind, whirl", Latin molere "to grind", Greek mulos "mill", Albanian mjel "meal", German Mühle "mill" and mahlen "to grind", Russian molot' "to grind", and Serbian mleti "to grind". (Today's Good Word comes from a suggestion of a prolific newcomer, Gary Cook, whom we should all thank heartily.)

Dr. Goodword,

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