Printable Version
Pronunciation: l-pê-dayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To pelt with stones, to stone (to death)

Notes: This form of capital punishment is still legal or customary in Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia though rarely carried out, according to Wikipedia. Its lexical family includes a host of words, like lapidary "related to gem cutting", lapidation "stone-throwing", and lapidator "stone-thrower". It is also related to the fascinating word lapicide "stone-cutter", not the expected "stone-killer". -Cide is the combining form of cædere "to cut, kill", but is rarely used in the sense of "cut".

In Play: This word is seldom used except in the literal sense: "Muslims who participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca each year perform a ritual in which they symbolically lapidate the Devil." However, we may use it when metaphorically referring to the most horrendous forms of execution: "Phil Anders should be lapidated by her entire family for what he did to June McBride."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us directly from lapidatus, the past participle of lapidare "to stone" which, in turn, comes from lapis "a stone". It is related to Greek lepas "crag", but we don't find evidence of it in any other Indo-European language before Greek and Latin. We do know that Latin lapis went on to become Portuguese lápis, Italian lapis, and Spanish lápiz, all of which mean "pencil". This brings us to dilapidated, a combination of Latin dis- "asunder" + lapidare "to throw stones at". So the original meaning of dilapidated was in a state of disrepair as though stoned (in the old sense of the word).

Dr. Goodword,

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