Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-por-tyun Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To pester with the same question or annoyingly request over and over. 2. To plead or urge persistently and irksomely.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with a host of extended family. The nouns marking the quality of being importune still in use are importunity, importunement, and importunateness. The last is the result of a synonym of importune, importunate. Today's word has both two active and one passive adjectives, importunous or importunate, and importunable, respectively.

In Play: This word refers to continuous pestering with requests: "June McBride has so far successfully deflected the attentions of all the young men importuning her for her hand in marriage." It may also refer to a single urgent and persistent plea: "Flossie importuned her father fervently to release her from grounding for just one night."

Word History: This Good Word comes from Middle French importuner, inherited from Medieval Latin importunare "to make oneself troublesome", from Latin importunus "unfit, unfavorable, troublesome". The composition of this word suggests it originally meant "having no harbor, difficult to access", from an assimilated form of in- "not" + portus "harbor". The Latin word portus comes from a PIE verb per/por-, which apparently meant "to lead, to pass over or through". It shows up in Sanskrit parayati "he leads across" and Latin porta "gate" and portare "to carry", source of the English borrowing porter. Since [p] became [f] in the Germanic languages, we are not surprised to find ferry and ford in English. The Norwegian version of the last word, of course, is fjord. English fare, as in thoroughfare, German fahren "travel, drive", and Dutch varen "to sail, navigate" are part of the same family. (Let me not have to importune you to thank our old South African friend, Chris Stewart, for recommending today's important Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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