• mediocre •
mee-dee-o-kêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Of middling, undistinguished quality, indifferent, second-rate, not very good.
Notes: Here is a word that has survived a mediocre history. Originally, it meant "average, acceptable" but, unlike average, its meaning has slipped to "unacceptable". It comes with a large family. The noun is mediocrity and the adverb, mediocrely. A mediocre government is a mediocracy, a member of which is known as a mediocrat. The verb is mediocritize.
In Play: Mediocre today has a bad reputation: "Gladys Friday's performance at her previous several firms was mediocre at best of them." Today it refers to things faulty: "I've always heard a camel is a horse designed by a (mediocre) committee."
Word History: Today's Good Word resulted from English shaving the accent from French médiocre. French inherited the word from Latin mediocris "moderate, ordinary", literally "halfway up a mountain", from medius "middle" + ocris "rugged mountain". Medius was passed down from PIE medhyo- "middle", origin also of English mid, midst and middle and borrowings medium, mediate, and many more. Greek mesos "middle" is from the same source. Latin borrowed Greek okris "peak, point", changing its meaning only slightly. Greek created its word from PIE ak- "sharp; point", source also of Welsh ochr "verge, edge", Latin acer "sharp", German Ecke "corner", and English edge. Latin acus and Russian igla "needle" emerged from the same PIE word. Acus underlies several English Latinate borrowings, such as acuity, acupuncture, and acute. (Now let's all give Rob Towart an big e-hug for his sympathetic suggestion of today's misfortunate Good Word.)
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