Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-ê-lêk-tê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Inescapable, unavoidable, inevitable. 2. Irresistible.

Notes: Today's Good Word has recently become an orphan negative, a negated adjective with no positive partner. It now stands alongside such stalwarts as impeccable, hapless, inane, insipid, immaculate, impromptu, and nonchalant. Have you ever behaved in a chalant fashion? Even peccably so? That would seem to be an eminently eluctable situation but it cannot be since, despite 4.3 million occurrences on the Web, all English dictionaries agree that eluctable does not exist. You may use the negative adverb, ineluctably, and the noun, ineluctability, though.

In Play: The basic sense of this Good Word is hopeless inescapability: "An ineluctable attraction to the open road often overcomes Lisa Carr in the middle of faculty cocktail parties." The attempt to resist ineluctable urges is a task that tests the mettle of the best of us: "Charlotte Russe found herself fighting an ineluctable urge to cross the restaurant to the dessert cart and help herself rather than wait for the waitress."

Word History: The Oxford English Dictionary, granddad of them all, cites the following use of the verb underlying today's adjective in 1682: "They did eluctate out of their injuries with credit to themselves." The meaning of the verb was to escape with a great struggle. English, however, apparently borrowed today's word independently of the verb, from the Latin adjective ineluctabilis, made up of in- "not" + eluctabilis "penetrable". The adjective here came from the verb eluctari "to struggle out of", composed of the preposition ex "out of" + luctari "to struggle".

Dr. Goodword,

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