Printable Version
Pronunciation: nu-bail, nyu-bail Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Marriageable (said of a young woman), sexually mature. 2. Sexually attractive, youthful (said of a young woman).

Notes: I'll bet you didn't even know the first meaning of today's Good Word, the second is so often intended. We can see how the second meaning arose from the first, though. Nubility is the noun accompanying this word, and it doesn't appear that the adverb, nubilely, has taken hold.

In Play: Now, don't forget the original meaning of today's word: "Marian Kine is quite a nubile woman. I wish William Arami the best of luck in pursuing her." Here is an example of just the second, more familiar meaning: "Now I wouldn't say that Kay Largo is nubile; she must be pushing forty years old."

Word History: Today's Good Word started out meaning just "marriageable" (said of a woman), ultimately from Lating nubilis "marriageable". Nubilis was made from the stem of nubere "take as husband". It also is related to nuptial, the adjective underlying nuptials. It comes from PIE (s)neubh- "to marry, wed", with a Fickle S, source also of Czech snoubiti "to seek in marriage," Slovak zasnubit "to affiance, betroth", and Greek nymphe "bride". This word probably originally meant "to cover, veil oneself" (as a bride), since Latin obnubere meant "to veil, cover the head" from nubes "cloud". It was first used in 1944 by Saul Bellow in Dangling Man in the sense of "young and sexually attractive". (I would now like to thank a dedicated married reader, Eileen Bish, and her lucky husband Jim, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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