Printable Version
Pronunciation: mê-men-to Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A keepsake, souvenir, an item you keep as a remembrance of an event or experience.

Notes: We English speakers haven't made up our minds on how to spell the plural of this word: mementos or mementoes? So, both are OK today. Although mementos are remembrances of important moments in our lives, avoid pronouncing this word momento. It's a lexical orphan that comes with two idiomatic phrases, memento mori "a reminder of the inevitability of death" and memento vivere "a reminder of the pleasures of life".

In Play: Mementos are remembrances of the past: "Maude Lynn Dresser was a pack-rat whose home was filled to the brim with mementos and souvenirs from all her travels." Good remembrances should be legally obtained: "Wassily's bathroom was outfitted with towels he had taken from all the hotels he had visited as mementos of his stays."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin memento "remember!" the imperative of meminisse "to remember, recollect", a reduplicated form based on men(t)s "mind". Reduplication is the repetition of a syllable in a word used as a prefix or suffix, me-, in this case. Men(t)s was a hand-me-down from the PIE word men-/mon- "to think", underlying such Latinate borrowings as mental, mentor, and the suffix -ment. In Greek it emerged in mania "madness", which English also borrowed. It turned up in English as mind after passing through English's Germanic ancestors. The O-variant emerged in Latin monere "to remind" that we see in borrowings premonition and admonition, and Greek Mousa "Muse" and mousika "music", both of which English adopted. (Now let's all give Eric Berntson a nod of gratitude for sharing today's exceptionally Good Word with us in the Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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