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Pronunciation: ne-kro-mæn-see, ne-krê-mæn-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Purported communication with the dead, usually to predict the future. 2. Black magic, sorcery, witchcraft, voodoo.

Notes: This word is so popular it has bred a large lexical family. The verb is (to) necromance, which gives us necromancer and necromancing. But the personal nouns do not stop there: necromant, necromantic, and necromantist are all possible. Necromantic(al) is the only adjective.

In Play: Necromancy is consulting with the dead on any subject: "Harvey Milquetoast spent a fortune on seances with a necromancer who convinced him she contacted his deceased mother." This word can also refer to black magic in general: "When computers break down, the tendency arises to turn to necromancy."

Word History: Today's Good Word existed in Greek as necromanteia, which was borrowed by Latin as necromantia, and polished up by French to nécromancie, whence it was borrowed by English. The Greek created its word from nekros "dead body" + manteia "oracle, divination". Nekros came from PIE nek- 'dead, death", which also appears in the borrowings necrotic and necropolis. Manteia came from the same source as mania, mental, and the suffix -ment, PIE men- "think". It arose in English as mind and also in Greek as mantis "seer". (Today's scary Good Word emerged from a suggestion by Eric Berntson in the Agora of an archaic synonym, goety. Unfortunately, no in-depth etymology of goety could be found, so I hope Eric doesn't mind this substitution.)

Dr. Goodword,

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