Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-por-chê-nêt or -tyê-nêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Insistently and urgently besetting someone with a request. 2. Troublesome, bothersome, frustrating, annoying; impertinent.

Notes: Today's Good Word has such a unique meaning that it cannot be replaced. It is the adjective of the verb importune, as in "Could I importune you for the key to my office; someone seems to have changed the lock since Friday." Since we usually importune those we know only with important issues, we must be careful to differentiate today's word from important. The noun is the rather common and boring importunateness or importunacy (rhymes with lunacy) which, I think, has more class.

In Play: Children tend to be more importunate than adults: "When a 6-year-old comes to your desk with an importunate request to go to the restroom, it is best to honor the request." However, importunateness is not strictly a phenomenon of childhood: "Matilda, how importunate of you to ask for your paycheck while I'm doing my nails!"

Word History: Today's word was traced almost perfectly from French importuner "to importune" from Old French importun "inopportune", a word French inherited from Latin importunus "unsuitable, unfit, inconvenient". This Latin word is made up of in- "not" + portus "port, refuge", the source of English port, again, via French. The same root is found, of course, in opportune, which some etymologists believe underlies today's word. Many think it arises from Latin in + opportunus with a subsequent loss of the prefix op- in opportunus. I think this is more likely the case, though there is no reason that I can see for op dropping out of the word.

Dr. Goodword,

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