Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-pri-kayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To beseech, invoke, entreat, plead to the powers that be. 2. To cast a curse (on someone), to invoke evil (on someone).

Notes: This word originally meant simply "ask, request", even "pray", but it was used so often when asking for curses to be cast on others on others that "curse" was simply absorbed by this verb. Someone who imprecates a lot is an imprecator whose actions are imprecations. The adjective is imprecatory.

In Play: This word usually implies casting a curse on someone: "Milka set about learning some spells, so she could imprecate vengeance on the heads of all who offend her—just for her own peace of mind." We may still use this word simply to mean "cast, beseech" but, still, associated with curses: "Sheila imprecated several curses on the interviewer who had the temerity to ask her age."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on the past participle, imprecatus, of the Latin verb of imprecari "to invoke, ask, pray". The Latin verb contains an assimilated form of in- "in(to)" + precari "to pray, ask, request", inherited from the PIE word prek-/prok- "to ask, entreat". In the Germanic languages we see the results of the PIE word in German fragen "to ask", Frage "question" and Forschung "research". In the Slavic languages we find Russian prosit' "to ask for", Serbian prosim "please", and Czech and Slovak prosím "please". Lithuanian prašyti "ask for, request" comes from the same PIE source. (Lest our old friend and prolific contributor George Kovac imprecate us, let us all tip our hats and offer a word of gratitude to him for recommending such a fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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