Printable Version
Pronunciation: mês-ê-tayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To mumble inarticulately, moving the lips and making a low vocal sound, or to mutter through the teeth. 2. (Medicine) To move the lips without making a sound.

Notes: The noun for today's Good Word is mussitation, and the adjective is mussitant "muttering". The adjective may also be used as a noun referring to someone who mutters or who moves their lips without speaking, as that disgruntled old mussitant sitting in the corner.

In Play: I don't think we have another word for muttering through clenched teeth, so today's Good Word has a job waiting for its return from the brink of oblivion: "'Take your things and get out of this apartment immediately!' she mussitated angrily through her tightly clenched teeth." As our kids get smarter and smarter, don't be surprised to hear one say, "Mom always mussitates 'Sweet dreams!' as she leaves our room each night after tucking us in."

Word History: The root of this word comes from Latin mussitat-us, the past participle of mussitare "to mutter", a variant of mussare "to mutter". Mussare is probably an onomatopoetic (imitative) stem similar to ancient Greek muxein "to mutter" and English mutter. Onomatopoetic words are generated by individual languages and are not always passed along historically as are other words. Cockadoodle-doo, for example, is kykkeliky in Danish, kukeleku in Dutch, cocorico in French, and kikeriki in German. As you can see, these words are related only by the sound they imitate. The same applies to Latin mussare. (We are happy that Susan Lister spoke up without mussitation and sent us today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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