Printable Version
Pronunciation: mi-lê-tayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To have weight, to influence, usually used with against. 'To militate against' means to make something less possible or likely.

Notes: Here is a word often confused with mitigate "to make less harsh or severe". Keep this in mind. It comes with a noun, militation, which all dictionaries that carry it at all agree is obsolete. Militant "fighting, aggressive" is an adjective semantically far removed from today's word. So, we are left with the present participle, militating, to use as adjective and noun.

In Play: Remember to avoid using the phrase 'mitigate against' in sentences like this: "The Trojan horse episode militated strongly against anyone trusting the Greeks." Militate means to weigh heavily against: "Memories of WWII didn't militate the least against the Germans' becoming heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas."

Word History: Today's Good Word has an interesting but mysterious history. It is based on militatus, the past participle of Latin militare "to serve in the military", a verb based on the noun miles "soldier". The current sense of the word is a figurative application of the definition of soldier as someone who fights against an enemy. We are not sure how miles came to be in Latin, but it could be related to mille "thousand" since the Romans had large armies. But then mille is another word with hidden origins. (Now a bow to Dan Obertance, who discovered the confusion with mitigate of today's problematic Good Word and brough it to our attention.)

Dr. Goodword,

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