Printable Version
Pronunciation: myu-sê--jê-nês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Thick, soft, slimy, and sticky, in short, resembling mucilage, either vegetable gum or glue. 2. Relating to or secreting mucilage (vegetable gum), as 'a mucilaginous plant'.

Notes: The pronunciation of this Good Word is just as slow and gooey as its definition, making it a perfect fit for its work. Gooey goes by too fast and slimy captures only one of the traits of mucilage. This adjective is built on the noun, mucilage, a slimy, sticky substance exuded by plants or the yellowish glue used in many schools in the US. I used hundreds of bottles of this glue in my formative years and marveled that each of them had mucilage clearly imprinted on them, but no one ever uttered the word; it was always just "glue".

In Play: Another reason to use this word is that slimy substances are not cute, but things mucilaginous may be: "The little girl was adorable, even with the little mucilaginous rope dangling from her nose." Don't you think? Some are even tasty: "Willy Leaver wasn't sure if he liked or disliked Melba's cooking until she cooked a bowl of mucilaginous okra for him; then he was sure."

Word History: This word came from Old French mucilage, an inheritance from Late Latin mucilago "musty juice". Underlying this word is the verb mucere "to be musty", itself based on mucus "mucus"—as musty as juice gets. Now mucus is a cognate of ancient Greek muxa "mucus" and mussesthai "to blow the nose". In fact, mukter "nostril" is also related. (Steve Jones, who always keeps his nose clean, found today's sticky Good Word on a glue bottle, and we thank him ever so much for recommending it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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