Printable Version
Pronunciation: men-thê-lay-did Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. With menthol, containing menthol. 2. Subtly or artificially sweet, as 'mentholated flute music'.

Notes: The suffix -ed is usually associated with the English past tense and past participle. But it is a multifunctional suffix which also converts nouns to adjectives, like bearded, forested, bright-eyed, meaning "having X". That is what we have today; there is no verb mentholate (as my spellchecker correctly points out).

In Play: Menthol is an organic compound made from peppermint oil or synthesized. It is added to a wide variety of products: rubs, salves and liniments, shaving cream, cigarettes, cough drops and syrup, perfumes, paints, and other things: "Two teaspoons of Mentholatum rub while gently inhaling mentholated vapors—though not curing any ailment—will make it slightly more pleasant."

Word History: Today's adjective is composed of menthol + -at + -ed, an adjective suffix in this case. While this construction implies an underlying verb mentholate, no such verb is ever used. The construction of menthol is menth + -ol "oil". The origin of both these parts is Latin: mentha "mint" and oleum "oil". Latin borrowed mentha from Greek mintha "mint", probably from a lost Mediterranean language. Latin oleum "(olive) oil" was reduced in Old French to oile or uile. English borrowed the former as oil, but French continued with the latter to make Modern French huile. Latin borrowed its word from Greek elaion "olive oil", where the etymological trail, once again, ends. However, Latin had a poetic variant of oleum, olivum, which French reduced to olive. English helped itself to this one, too. (Chris Berry suggested menthol back in 2006, which stimulated a discussion of today's Good Word recently in the Agora)

Dr. Goodword,

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