• jejune •
jê-jun • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Devoid of nourishment, lacking nutrients (food). 2. Dull, insipid, dry, uninteresting (ideas). 3. Puerile, juvenile, childish.
Notes: Jejune is a word we don't meet very often, but serves well its purpose. It comes with an adverb, jejunely, and a handful of nouns: jejunity, jejunery, and the more commonplace jejuneness. All mean about the same thing: "the quality of being jejune" (in any of the senses of the adjective).
In Play: The fundamental sense of today's word is "devoid of nutrients": "Natalie Broome eats such a jejune diet she looks like she is on the brink of death." The meaning, however, has expanded to cover other voids: "Lyda Cain's talk was so jejune, half the audience was constantly looking at their watches and the other half was asleep."
Word History: Today's Good Word is of direct Latin heritage: ieiunus "empty, dry, barren; fast". (Latin had no J, so it had to make do with I, pronounced short [ee] before consonants, [y] elsewhere.) No one seems to know where the Latin word came from, but we do know where it went. The Spanish, Portuguese, and French words for "breakfast" were created with Latinate prefix dis- "un-" + jejun- "fast", which implies that we start out empty before breakfast. This turned into Spanish desayuno, Portuguese desjejum, and French déjeuner. The last eventually came to mean "lunch". (Thank you Sue Gold and William Hupy for recommending today's very unjejune Good Word.)
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