Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-te-grê-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Wholeness, the state of being complete and intact; soundness, as the integrity of a car after a crash. 2. Moral soundness, honor, high moral standards, as a man or woman of integrity.

Notes: Today's Good Word refers to a quality, and qualities are usually expressed by adjectives like tall, good, and clean. The problem is that our word today has no adjective for sentences like, "She is a very _____ person". Integral has picked up another meaning (or was it the other way around?) This leaves us with only a prepositional phrase based on the noun to use as an adjective, "She is a person of integrity."

In Play: Today's Good Word refers to how things hold together in one piece: "His driving over invious terrain tested the integrity of his Jeep, which held together marvelously." It works just as well describing our moral character: "His integrity was tested when he became treasurer of the club." Unfortunately, it didn't meet the challenge, which is why he is currently living furtively on an undisclosed Caribbean island.

Word History: This very good noun comes from Latin integritas "soundness", the noun of the adjective integer "whole, complete" (another word we snitched). This word goes back to Proto-Indo-European tag- "to touch, handle". The meaning comes from the concept of all parts being in contact with each other. Tag- had a Fickle N so that it emerges sometimes as tag-, sometimes as tang- for reasons that remain mysterious. That is it in both tangible "that can be touched" and tactile "pertaining to touch". Tactile, tact and taste come from the past participle, tactus, of the Latin verb tangere "to touch". Now you must remember that when the IR (UK) or IRS (US) 'touches' you for your taxes, the word tax comes from Greek tassein, taxai "to arrange, assess", based on the same root. (It would certainly tax our integrity to forget to thank Susan Gillmor of Portland, Maine, for suggesting today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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