Podcast lucubrate

Printable Version
Pronunciation: lu-kyu-brayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To work late at night or into the night using artificial light. 2. To write a scholarly discourse or other work in a detailed, scholarly way; to write long and laboriously.

Notes: Again we have a fascinating word under threat of extinction. As we are more and more often forced to take work home with us at night or push the time we spend on our own activities later into the night, the opportunities for using this Good Word are actually increasing. So, we should not completely lose sight of it. This word comes with a full complement of derivations: lucubration is the noun, lucubratory is the adjective, and a lucubrator is someone who loves working into the wee hours.

In Play: Today's Good Word originally was related to working by some form of artificial light (see Word History), and it is this sense that appeals to Dr. Goodword the most: "Gee, fellows, I would love to go to the movies, but I'm afraid I have to lucubrate over a term paper due tomorrow." However, since scholars (apparently) were the only ones who worked diligently into the night at one time, the word is now used in the US to refer to writing in a detailed, scholarly fashion: "I hate to just ignore his memo after he has obviously lucubrated on it for days."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on lucubratus, the past participle of Latin lucubrare "to work at night by lamplight". The root comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *leuk- "light, shine" which somehow turned into English light. Now, this English word is a distant cousin of Russian luch "ray" (from Old Slavic leuk-ti), Latin lux (luk-s), and the Christian name of our Brazilian editor, Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira. Another word leuk- turned into is Greek leukos "white, clear", which we can see in our medical term for the white blood cell, leukocyte, and the disease thereof, leukemia. With the suffix -n, the same root went on to become Latin luna "moon", the root of our words lunar and lunatic, someone once thought to bay at the moon. (Today's arduous Good Word came to us from Brian Gockley, who worked at alphaDictionary for one year as a web page manager.)

Dr. Goodword,

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