Printable Version
Pronunciation: mee-lyê-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: Make better, improve.

Notes: Today we get a tip on how to economize our speech. Since most of us tend to say ameliorate with a superfluous initial A, dropping that A saves time and oral energy. This word has a large derivational family, including meliorable, melioration, and meliorator. What more could a speaker want? The adjective meliorative "having a positive connotation" is the antonym of our old friend pejorative, as fragrance is a meliorative variant of smell.

In Play: You may use ameliorate if you need to draw out the conversation a bit, but the initial A isn't necessary: "I don't think jokes will meliorate Sue Pine's mood while she is in traction." Laughter jiggles things around in ways that traction doesn't like. Nothing like a few of them, though, to meliorate a rainy day: "The weather report this morning shows nothing to meliorate this foul weather and the political ads made things even fouler."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from the past participle, melioratus, of the Latin verb meliorare "to improve, make better", a verb based on the comparative adjective melior "better". Not satisfied with borrowing this word only once, English also borrowed it from Old French, where it had become ameillorer. The initial a is the French word for "to", absorbed from the phrase a meillorer "to better". The stem of this word is the comparative of Latin multus "much, many", visible in such English words as multitude and multiply. (Susan Lister has immensely meliorated our Good Word series by suggesting a multitude of words as good as this one.)

Dr. Goodword,

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