Printable Version
Pronunciation: milk-sahp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Milquetoast, schnook, wuss, sissy, pantywaist, wimp, a wishy-washy person. 2. Originally: a piece of bread or toast soaked in milk.

Notes: Milksop in the original sense of the word was food for babies or toothless old folks, hence the extension into today's sense. This word comes with a surprisingly large family. Milksoppish and milksoppy have been widely used in reference to a timid, spiritless person, usually a man. Milksoppery refers to the quality of a human milksop.

In Play: This word is quite topical today: "In supporting the president at every turn, his supporters have proven themselves to be a collection of milksops." The original sense remains, lurking back there in time's shadows: "Helen Highwater weaned her baby on milksops."

Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a compound comprising milk + sop. Milk is a Germanic original in English, evidenced by Dutch melk, German Milch, Swedish mjölk, and Danish mælk. The alternative spelling in English, milch, comes from a combining form, -milce, as in thrimilce "May", the month in which cows may be milked thrice a day. These words all come from PIE melg-/molg- "to stroke, rub, milk". Greek turned it into amelgo "I milk" and Latin, into lac "milk", source of Spanish leche "milk" and French lait "milk". In the Slavic languages it emerged as Serbian mleko "milk" and Russian moloko "milk". Sop goes back to PIE seup-/soup- "broth, soup". It emerged in German as saufen "to drink, swill" and English as sup, as in supper, sip, and sop. In Spanish we see it in sopaipilla "deep fried pastry soaked in honey" from Old Spanish sopa "food soaked in liquid".

Dr. Goodword,

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