Podcast imperious

Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-peer-i-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Imperial, related to or befitting an emperor. 2. Having the bearing, mien, superior demeanor, or attitude of an emperor; haughty, overbearing. 3. Taking precedent over all else, as food is an imperious need of animals.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one of the adjectives for the noun empire (imperial being the other). The shift of I to E is no surprise; vowels are far shiftier than consonants (see History). You may form an adverb from this adjective quite simply by adding the usual suffix, -ly: imperiously. As for nouns, imperiosity hasn't been heard from since 1654—for good reason. Better go with imperiousness.

In Play: Since the passing of the epoch of emperors, today's Good Word was left to apply to appearances and demeanors: "The doorman who refused to let Kent Waite pass was dressed in an imperious red and blue uniform with gold braid that apparently came with a matching attitude." However, the third meaning of this word is often overlooked: "While William Arami wanted to keep slim and trim for the sake of his fiance, his imperious love of chocolate ice cream made the task simply impossible."

Word History: Today's word comes to us directly from a Latin adjective with the same meaning, imperiosus, from the noun imperium "command, authority". The noun is derived from the verb imperium "empire, command", comprising in "in" + parare "to prepare". The shift of the I to E, that we see in empire and emperor, was the work of French, whence English borrowed these words. The root of parare is also visible in parade which, in French, means "a show" as in a military parade inspection, intended to show preparedness. Parare probably came from Proto-Indo-European per- "before, in front; first". This word turned up in many prepositions, like Latin pre- "before", which English shamelessly borrowed, Lithuanian per "through", Russian (and other Slavic languages) pri- "(up) to", and in the English adjective first. (We are happy that David Gockley of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, did not imperiously refuse to share today's Good Word with us when it caught his eye.)

Dr. Goodword,

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