Printable Version
Pronunciation: lu-rid (US), lyu-rid (UK) Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Vivid with explicit detail meant to provoke shock or dismay, as 'a lurid description of the massacre'. 2. Disturbingly colorful, tastelessly bright, garish, as 'lurid lights of a carnival'. 3. (Mildly archaic) Dismally pale in color, wan, sallow, of ghastly hue.

Notes: The adverb for this adjective is luridly and the noun is luridness, though a few dictionaries accept luridity. I find the latter noun consistent with the nouns humidity, stupidity, validity, and those based on other adjectives ending on -id.

In Play: This word can refer to uncomfortable details: "We heard all the lurid details of Phil Ander's romantic affairs from his latest victim." It may refer to pallid, unsettling colors: "Maude Lynn Dresser's nails were a lurid green that matched her belt and stockings."

Word History: English lurid was borrowed from Latin luridus "pale, pallid, ghastly", from luror "paleness, pallor". We aren't sure where Latin got luror. Some think it related to Greek khloros "greenish-yellow", which would be from PIE ghel-/ghol- "to shine, gold, yellow". However, normally there would be some evidence of the [gh]. We would expect glurid, as in English glow, glisten, gleam and glitter, all of which share the same source. Others think it related to livid, which comes from PIE sleiê- "bluish". This PIE word underlies Russian and Serbian sliva "plum" (as in slivovitz "plum brandy). This word led to English sloe "blackthorn", as in 'sloe gin'. We can easily account for the loss of a Fickle S in Latin. (It would be a lurid oversight if we forgot to thank Albert Skiles for suggesting today's Good Word with the foggy history.)

Dr. Goodword,

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