Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-si-pid Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Lacking flavor or taste, flat. 2. Lacking substance, dull, boring, uninteresting.

Notes: The noun for today's word is insipidity unless you prefer the more ordinary insipidness. Insipid reflects an ancient association of tastiness, substance, and wisdom. It is related to insipient "stupid, foolish", the negative of sapient "wise". Wisdom was at one time associated with having substance or a savory taste, the lack of which was considered foolishness. But do not confuse the two similar words.

In Play: Insipid begins as an indicator of physical taste: "Tiffany Lampe is an exorbitantly beautiful woman who cannot hold an intelligent conversation, like a glass of expensive but insipid champagne." It then moves quickly to metaphorical duty: "Most of M. T. Head's lecture was an insipid repetition of the mediocre points he made in his last book."

Word History: This Good Word came to us from French insipide, descended from Late Latin insipidus "tasteless". The Latin word is made up of in- "not" (distant cousin of English un-) + sapidus "savory, tasty", an adjective from sapere "to taste". English savor comes from the same verb. The [p] became [v] in Old French, savour, which was borrowed by English. The U was dropped from the French spelling in the US but was retained in the UK and other English-speaking regions, where it is still spelled savour. The same Latin verb turned up in Spanish as saber "to know", a form of which (sabe) became English savvy.

Dr. Goodword,

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