• mollify •
mah-lê-fai • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To calm, soothe, or allay anger. 2. To temper, to reduce severity or harshness, as to mollify the language of a law. 3. (Obsolete) To soften, to make less hard and more flexible, as to mollify the beard with warm water and soap before shaving.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with a complete complement of derivations. Those who mollify are mollifiers who engage in the mollification of those who are mollifiable, speaking to them in soothing, mollient tones.
In Play: This word is used most often when someone is distraught and beside themselves: "Lester became hysterical when his wife suggested that her mother stay with them for a while, and nothing she could say would mollify him." It is often used in reference to softening the language in a document, too: "Could we somehow mollify the section on punishment for office hanky-panky?" Don't confuse this word with modify, which could refer to softening or stiffening.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a slight modification of Old French mollifier, the French modification of Latin mollificare "to make soft, mollify". The Latin verb was created from mollis "soft" + a variation of facere "to make". The root of mollis also turns up in emollient, a softener, and mollusk, the hard-shelled sea creature with the soft, edible innards. Portuguese mole, Italian molle, Romanian moale, and French mou all mean "soft" and all are reflexes of Latin mollis. That root was originally PIE mol-/mel- with an E-variant that turned into words meaning "grind", for example, English mill and meal, the grain product that goes into bread making. Milling grain apparently was originally seen as softening it for cooking. With different suffixes, the PIE word drifted away to various other concepts of softness, such as English melt and Russian molodoi "young". (Let us mollify any fears Husain Mustfa might have about our recognizing his contribution by saying, "Thank you," for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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