Printable Version
Pronunciation: im-prê-vaiz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To create or perform without preparation, extemporaneously. 2. To make something from whatever materials are at hand.

Notes: Today's Good Word presents no problems of spelling except for American readers: remember to spell the suffix -ise, the British way, not the standard for US English with a Z (-ize). The noun for this word is the predictable improvisation, and the adjective is based on this noun, improvisational, as in 'improvisational theater'.

In Play: I am sitting here in front of my monitor improvising example sentences using today's Good Word. Here is the best I can come up with: "When Willy Knillie found there was no dust broom in the car to clean up the mess he'd made, he improvised with the poodle's tail." Musical improvisations can be delightful, but music isn't the only field where improvisation is possible: "When the caterer failed to show up, Sal Magundy had to improvise a meal of meat by-products and canned vegetables."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes immediately from French improviser "to act extemporaneously", from Italian improvvisare, based on improvviso "unforeseen, unprepared". Improvviso descended from Latin improvisus "unforeseen, unexpected", from in- "not, opposite of" + provisus "foreseen" with the assimilation of the N to M before P. Provisus is the past participle of providere "foresee, provide" derived by combining pro "forward" + videre "to see". The noun from videre is visio(n), which was borrowed into English as vision and even combined with Greek tele- "distant" to create television. The same PIE root came through Old Germanic to English as wit and wisdom, perhaps influenced by the semantics of seer. (I will now have to improvise a note of gratitude for Joakim Larsson: thank you, Joakim, for a lovely Good Word suggestion.)

Dr. Goodword,

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