Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-də-lənt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Lazy, lethargic, unwilling to exert oneself, as 'an indolent child'. 2. (Medicine) Persistent, slow to develop or heal, as 'an indolent ulcer'. 3.(Medicine) Causing little or no pain, as 'an indolent tumor'.

Notes: Today we have a less pejorative word for lazy. The adverb is indolently and the noun, indolence. Indolency is now universally considered archaic.

In Play: Indolent is also a more sophisticated way to express laziness: "I am living proof that indolent students occasionally make it through to graduation." Indolent may also refer to nonhuman things, implying "conducive to laziness": "I just love the call of my garden to its care on those indolent summer days." In medicine it can mean "slowly progressing" as: "When accused of hypochondria, Alston claims that all his ailments are indolent."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Late Latin indolen(t)s "free of pain", from in- "no, not" + dolen(t)s "pain, grieving", the present participle of dolere "to suffer pain", source also of dolor "pain". English borrowed this word, changing its meaning only slightly to "painful grief". English also created doleful from this word. Latin inherited its word from PIE del-/dol- "to split, cut (off)". The semantic migration is explained by the fact that the word originated in torture chambers, where much painful cutting was done. The victim was allowed respites of indolentia "no cutting = no pain". From there it drifted to "laziness" with only the medical usage retaining the original meaning. The same root also turns up in Russian delit' "divide" and in Latin dolare "to hew, chop down".

Dr. Goodword,

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