• mansuetude •
mæn-swi-tyud • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Mildness, gentleness, tameness, docility.
Notes: This word, whose root is man, refers to characteristics usually associated with women. It is so rare that some dictionaries list it as archaic. Mansuetude has no lexical family, though if words like attitudinal and latitudinal are any indication, mansuetudinal should be acceptable.
In Play: Mansuetude, as mentioned above, is usually associated with women: "Though a woman of outward mansuetude, April Showers could run a political campaign with the best of them." However, the sense of this word is sex-neutral: "A good politician can successfully hide his or her anger beneath a veneer of mansuetude."
Word History: Middle English borrowed this word from Old French, which inherited it from Latin mansuetudo "tameness", from mansuetus, the past participle of mansuescere "to tame (to accustom to the hand)". This verb is a compound composed of manus "hand" + suescere "to accustom". We find this offspring of Proto-Indo-European man- "hand" among many English borrowings like manage, manual, manipulate, and manacles. The verb suescere comes from PIE s(w)e- "(one's) own", extended to swedh-sko "make one's own, accustom", found also in the English borrowing consuetude "custom" and desuetude "disuse". (We wish now to follow the consuetude of this series by thanking George Kovac for recommending today's stellar Good Word.)
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