Printable Version
Pronunciation: mæn-ni-pyê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Handle, operate, control skillfully, as 'to manipulate the stage lights successfully'. 2. Examine with the hands, as 'to manipulate a joint'. 3. Influence something or someone cleverly, but unscrupulously, unfairly, to tamper, as 'to try to manipulate stock prices'.

Notes: Someone who manipulates in any of the three senses above is a manipulator, which gives us one active adjective, manipulatory. The other is manipulative. There are also two passive adjectives, manipulable and manipulatable. My spellchecker prefers the latter; I prefer the former.

In Play: The original sense of today's word was limited to things you could to with your hands: "Fosdick manipulated the ropes his wife had tied him to the chair with and escaped, but not before she had left." However, this word has long since escaped that limitation: "Fosdick was beginning to realize that his desire to manipulate his wife's life had failed."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a back-formation of French manipulation. This word was a French creation from manipule "handful", an old pharmacists' measure, inherited from Latin manipulus "handful, sheaf, bundle", a compound containing manus "hand" + a variant of plere "to fill". Notice that the English correlate of today's word, handle, is based on the same concept "hand" as the Latin borrowing. The Latin word goes back to PIE man- "hand", which ended up in the English borrowings manual, manage, and manicure. Latin plere came from PIE pelê- "to fill", which ended up in English as fill and full. In Russian it became polnyi "full". (We need now to manipulate into the discussion a word of thanks to our old friend Joakim Larsson for recommending today's handy Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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