Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-ko-êt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Beginning, incipient; in an early, incomplete, only partially formed stage.

Notes: Today's Good Word contains a CH digraph (two-letter cluster) pronounced [k] that deserves our respect when we spell it. It remains in the adverb, inchoately, and the noun, inchoateness, so beware of them, too.

In Play: Anything still in its early stages is inchoate: "I have this idea, still a bit inchoate, for a book on how to read that will appeal to everyone who can't." Even projects that are well along the way toward completion but have not made it fall beneath the purview of today's Good Word: "Kay Syrah told another of her inchoate jokes—she never remembers a punch line!"

Word History: Today's Good Word is the English remake of Late Latin inchoatus "only begun, incomplete", past participle of inchoare "to begin". This word is an apparent misspelling of Classical Latin incohare, with the same meaning. Sometimes misspellings stick and incohare seems to have suffered this fate. Incohare contains in "in" + cohum "yoke, harness", so the original sense of this verb implied harnessing a draft animal before starting a journey. The earlier root that produced cohum in Latin also entered the Germanic languages on its own, resulting in German Hecke "hedge" and Gehege "pen, enclosure", as well as English hedge. (There is nothing inchoate about our gratitude to Mark Bailey for suggesting today's Good Word; it is fully fledged and robust.)

Dr. Goodword,

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