Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahb-æm-byê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To walk around, to wander here and there, to stroll about.

Notes: I'll bet you thought this was a brand new word involving a past president. In fact, it is an archaic word that has not been recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary since the end of the 18th century. The noun is obambulation and the adjective is obambulatory.

In Play: In case you want a single classic word to replace walking around, you may want to revive this golden oldie: "Miles Walker enjoys his evening obambulations; he obambulates about the neighborhood each day at dusk." It has a full complement of derivations: "In the course of his obambulatory visits to the late-night pubs, Tom Collins managed to lose his wallet in one of them."

Word History: This word was borrowed from obambulatus, the past participle of Latin obambulare "to walk up to, to wander, to walk around". It comprises ob "towards, for, because of" + ambulare "to walk". Ob comes from the PIE root epi/opi "near, over, at, against". Latin used the O-variant, but Greek used the E-variant for its epi "on, at". Slavic followed Latin, converting the O-variant into Russian o(b) "about". Ambulare comes from PIE ambhi- "around", which turned up in Greek as amphi "around, about", found in the English borrowing amphitheater. Latin transformed it into a prefix, ambi- "around, on both sides", which we see in the borrowed words ambiguous and ambidextrous. It was also incorporated in a verb, ambire "to encircle, to go around, to seek, strive for". The past participle of this word was ambitus, which underlies English ambitious.

Dr. Goodword,

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