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Pronunciation: mê-ti-kyê-lês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Extremely careful, punctilious, extremely precise, exacting.

Notes: This adjective comes with an adverb, meticulously, and a noun, meticulousness. Many adjectives with the suffix -ous have a less clunky noun on -osity and, sure enough, meticulosity has been used almost as often as its synonym.

In Play: Meticulous refers to anything created with extreme attention to detail: "It is hard to devise an argument to debunk such a meticulous methodology as Herschel's." Care is often taken meticulously": "June McBride avoids men like Phil Anders with meticulous care."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken by English in the sense of "timorously fussy" from Middle French méticuleux (today "precise, meticulous"), the French descendant of Latin meticulosus "fearful, timid". The Latin adjective is based on the noun meta "fear, dread". No trace of any relative of this word has been found in any other IE language. As for the shift in its meaning, according to Etymonline, meticulous appears in Halliwell's 1852 Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words with the definition "timorous". It is marked "obsolete" in Craig's Universal Dictionary of the same year. The 1890 Century Dictionary lists its meaning as "timid; over-careful". So, we can see how the meaning migrated from "fearful" to "precise".

Dr. Goodword,

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