Printable Version
Pronunciation: læm-bayst Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: No, today's word has nothing to do with basting lamb, not even if you are on the lam: it means 1. to beat or thrash thoroughly or 2. to scold or chastise furiously.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan, which makes tracing its origin difficult (see Word History). It is also a rarity in that it appears to be an original English word, not borrowed from elsewhere. The present participle, lambasting, may also function as a noun and adjective and someone who warms to lambasting too quickly is a lambaster. Just watch the coming and going of the final, silent E.

In Play: Lambasting someone is never a good idea; it makes the lambastee feel bad at the time and the lambaster later on if he or she makes a mistake: "The boss was lambasting Eileen Dover for sending a letter to a client without his knowledge until she showed him the letter with his signature at the bottom." Fire-and-brimstone ministers are past masters at lambasting: "The teetotalers enjoyed a thrilling message in church today as the preacher lambasted everyone who ever let demon rum touch their lips."

Word History: We are not sure of the origin of today's Good Word, but the first constituent probably comes from Old English lame, borrowed from Old Norse lemja (past tense lamtha) "to lame, to make lame". Old English retained the same sense, but by Middle English it referred to a beating or thrashing. In the 16th century there was a word of unknown origin, baste, meaning "to beat soundly". That meaning disappeared about the middle of the 19th century when paste emerged with the sense of hitting, for example, to paste someone a good one on the chin. Could this baste have been transformed into this new verb? (We wouldn't want Larry Brady to lambaste us for ignoring his contribution, so we thank him for suggesting it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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