Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-trin-sik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Inherent, belonging to a thing by its very nature, belonging to the essence of something alone, without outside support. 2. Belonging solely to an organ or body part in which it functions, not found elsewhere.

Notes: This Good Word has a fraternal twin, intrinsical, which is less often used; however, it is the parent of all the remaining members of the family, the adverb, intrinsically, and both nouns, intrinsicality and intrinsicalness.

In Play: Things intrinsic can be gifts: "Private Lyons has an intrinsic talent for installing communications networks." However, intrinsic properties are not necessarily gifts, "Miss Dakin's ability to misconstrue what is said to her is intrinsic; I don't think that is something that you can learn."

Word History: Middle English borrowed this word from intrinsique "inner" from Old French intrinseque, a descendant of Late Latin intrinsecus "inward, on the inside" from intra "inside, within" + secus, "by, alongside". Many Indo-European languages have some form of in, including English. Russian kept the original root, too, but a [w] developed in front of it, a [w] that later turned into a [v]. In the meantime, the [n] began to wander off until today the Russian word for "in" is the simple consonant v, except for a few petrified words, such as vnutri "inside", where we do see it. (Good Words like today's hold an intrinsic interest for Tim Ward, who raised his suggestion, as so many contributors do, in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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