Printable Version
Pronunciation: -kri-mos Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Tearful, weeping, lamentable.

Notes: English-speakers are not pleased with the spelling of the family members of today's Good Word. The medical term indicating the tear glands or process of tearing, lachrymal, can now legitimately be spelled lacrimal and the noun, lachrymator, may be spelled lacrimator—it usually refers to tear gas. This reflects the attempts of some purists to return to the Classical Latin spelling (see Word History). This confusion is in no way characteristic of today's word; it is only spelled lachrymose.

In Play: Anything that brings about tears we may call lachrymose: "Did you see the lachrymose show Gwendolyn put on at her boss's funeral? Crocodile tears." But we may use today's Good Word a good deal more loosely than tearful: "I heard of the most lachrymose situation: Gladys Friday lost her job."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from lacrimosus "tearful, sorrowful, weeping", itself from lacrima "tear", borrowed from Greek dakryma "tear". The D to L alteration in Latin is the so-called "Sabine L". Other Latin words fallen victim to this dialectal peculiarity include olere "smell", from root of odor, and Ulixes, the Latin name for Greek Odysseus. The Medieval Latin practice of writing CH for C before Latin R, seen elsewhere in ancora becoming anchora. The Y reflects the Medieval European belief that lacrimosis was of Greek origin. It bears witness to the same pedantic prejudice for Greek reflected in the misleading spelling of original rime, rhyme like rhythm. (Lew Jury was lachrymose years ago over the passing of Christopher Hitchens , contributing editor of Vanity Fair, and thought he would pass on a couple of interesting Good Words from one of Hitchens's essays.)

Dr. Goodword,

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