Printable Version
Pronunciation: -dhêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The female parent, a woman who bears and/or primarily raises a child.

Notes: Happy Mothers Day. Mother, the word, has borne a large and happy family of derivational offspring. The adjective and adverb of this noun are both motherly, which has a noun, motherliness, that expresses the affection and nurturing of good mothers. The status of being a mother is, of course, motherhood, as a woman who enjoys motherhood. The new term for "baby talk" is motherese since we discovered that it is an affectation of mothers and not childish speech. Just as mothers often must handle two jobs, so does today's Good Word, which doubles as a verb. "She mothers him too much," means that she is too attentive to his needs.

In Play: Mothers are the central part of our lives and often of other things as well: the central part of a computer is the motherboard and Mother Earth and Mother Nature completely enfold us. The mother of all sales would be the biggest imaginable sale and the one imitated by all others. Our mothers are the critical part of our lives and of things that are bigger than life; they are the creators of life.

Word History: It is most appropriate that the word for "mother" in Proto-Indo-European originated in the first recognizable syllable uttered by babies: ma, still replicated in their first name for "mother", mama. This syllable was attached to a kinship suffix, -ter, which also turns up in brother, father, and sister. The original form, mater-, later evolved into the current words for "mother" that we now find in all the Indo-European languages: Latin mater, Greek meter (as in metropolis, the mother city), German Mutter, French mère, Serbian majka, Russian mat', materi, Italian and Spanish madre, Portuguese mãe, Danish moder, Dutch and Afrikaans moeder, Norwegian and Swedish mor, Icelandic móðir, Irish máthair, Hindi mataji, Gujarati maataa, Farsi (Persian) madar, and Pashto (Afghanistan) mor. If you are a mother, may this day be as beautiful and exciting as your name in all these languages.

Dr. Goodword,

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