Printable Version
Pronunciation: leth-êr-jee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Lack of vigor, sluggishness, torpor. 2. Lack of interest, indifference, apathy. 3. (Medicine) An abnormal state of drowsiness caused by disease or medicine.

Notes: The adjective for this noun is lethargic or, less frequently, lethargical. The adverb is lethargically, even though the suffix -al- isn't pronounced.

In Play: We have to fight lethargy in old age: "The doctor told me that it is common for people my age to be haunted by lethargy, boredom, and dark thoughts, particularly during winter months". However, things beside humans can be cursed with this state: "The lethargy of the negotiations contrasted starkly with the enthusiasm of the protests going on in the streets outside."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French léthargie, inherited from Latin lethargia "drowsiness, lethargy", which was picked up by Latin from Greek lethargia "forgetfulness", the noun from lethargos "forgetful". Lethargos was a compound built on lethe "forgetfulness" + argos "idle". Where Greek lethe came from is anyone's guess. Greek argos "lazy, idle", was a derivation composed of a- "without" + ergon "work". Greek came by ergon from the PIE root werg- "to do", a source it shares with English work, and German Werk "plant, factory" and wirken "to act, work, operate". English orgy was borrowed from Greek orgia "religious rite", from the same source. Organ in all senses as well as organization comes from the same underlying form with the suffix -an.

Dr. Goodword,

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