Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-sêlt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To offend, affront, to treat with scornful indignity, showing great disrespect.

Notes: What is interesting about today's Good Word is that its noun is marked by a simple shift of the accent back one syllable: insult. Many verb-to-noun pairs in English exhibit this peculiarity: survey (survey : a survey), reject (reject : a reject), and rewrite (rewrite : a re-write) among others. The noun from today's word is also used in medicine in the sense of "attack, injury, trauma", as an insult to the leg. The participle serves double duty as the adjective: insulting. Insults in disguise are known as persiflage.

In Play: The most common phrase that employs today's Good Word is "adding insult to injury", which simply means to insult twice over: "Not only did Sue Persillias turn down Matt Tremony's marriage proposal, she added insult to injury by accepting his brother's!" Otherwise, the use of this word is straightforward: "Sue Flay was so insulted to be taken to a restaurant that used paper napkins, that she walked out and took a cab home."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken directly from Middle French insulter, a derivation from Latin insultare "to assail, assault". This word was early on used by Cicero in sense of "insult, scoff at, revile". It is the frequentative of insilire "to leap at, attack", meaning "to leap at frequently, to keep on attacking". This word was put together from in- "in, on, at" + salire "to leap". The PIE mother word from which salire developed had little impact on languages other than Latin. In Latin we see it in several words borrowed by English. In addition to salient, that's it in sally (forth), assail, assault, result, and the name of the leaping fish, the salmon. (Lest we insult Ellen Adams, let us now offer her a word of thanks for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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