Printable Version
Pronunciation: læp-ser-ri-ên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, adjective

Meaning: Someone who believes the doctrine of the fall of man from innocence.

Notes: Here is a word that appears 92,600 time on the Web currently, yet only 2-3 times in dictionaries. This word finds itself in a host of derivations, prelapsarian, sublapsarian, postlapsarian, supralapsarian, and infralapsarian, the Calvinist view that God's selection of only some for everlasting life was the consequence of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

In Play: This word would seem to be narrowly defined: "The lapsarians' beliefs are usually accompanied by some form of misogyny." However, we can all imagine how this word could be used figuratively for the belief that mankind is going to hell in a handbasket: "Harriet is a lapsarian who believes that the good old days will never return."

Word History: Today's Good word incorporates Latin lapsus "a slip, fall, error" + -arian "believer, advocate". Lapsus is generally claimed to be of unknown origin. Of course, English borrowed the French version of it as lapse. There are several words phonologically similar, Latin labium "lip" and labor "to slide, slip, fall" which, as a noun means "work, labor". Connecting these two senses has proven difficult; simpler to say, "Origin unknown." If it is related to labium, we know this word comes from Proto-Indo-European leb- "to lick; lip", which came to English as lip, German as Lippe, which French borrowed for its lippe "lower lip". Lips may be seen as loose and slippery. Is this connection enough? (Many thanks to our old friend, William Hupy, a Senior Lexiterian in the Alpha Agora, for stirring up today's almost topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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