Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-tem-êr-rêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Pure, inviolate, unsullied, undefiled, unblemished.

Notes: Although this word is not around any more—it doesn't appear in most US dictionaries—it is still a good word that we shouldn't lose. Be careful not to confuse it with intemperate, a word separated from it by a single P. It originated as the negative adjective of the verb temerate "to defile, profane", a word that has long since slid into obsolescence. The adverb for today's good adjective is intemerately, and the noun, intemerateness.

In Play: Today's Good Word began its life referring to people: "The town was scandalized by the news that the presumably intemerate wife of the bishop had been seen sipping tea in a cafe with Phil Anders." Today it is probably more often an attribute of reputations: "Politicians these days seem to find it more and more difficult to sustain an intemerate reputation in office; indeed, fewer seem to enter office with such a reputation."

Word History: Today's Good Word came, as usual, from Latin via French, this time from intemeratus "undefiled, pure". Intemeratus is a combination of in- "un-" + temeratus "defiled, dishonored", the past participle of the verb temerare "to violate, defile, profane". The root of this verb, temer- is the Proto-Indo-European word tem-"dark" with a suffix, -er. We see the same root in Sanskrit tamas "dark", Russian t'ma "darkness", and Serbian tma "fog". It ended up in English as dim and in the French borrowing temerity "fearless daring". This word came from Latin temeritas "blind luck" from the adverb temere "blindly, by chance". The connection with darkness here should be clear. (We thank Samuel Keays for maintaining his record of submitting extremely Good Words to our series intemerate by suggesting today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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