Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahb-nahk-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Very repulsive, odious, extremely offensive or objectionable.

Notes: In order to avoid the clunkiness of obnoxiousness, several writers have tried obnoxity and even obnoxiety. Both are rarely used, but used in print recently (2007, 1999, respectively). Neither is declared obsolete by the Oxford English Dictionary. The adverb, of course, is obnoxiously.

In Play: Anything can be obnoxious if disagreeable in excess: "Val Halla doesn't believe in God for, if God existed, he thinks It would have come up with a method of reproduction that didn't involve obnoxious teenagers." Anything: "Collard greens are quite tasty despite their obnoxious odor when cooking."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes directly from Latin obnoxius "punishable, subject or liable to punishment or harm". This adjective is a derivative of obnoxiare "to subordinate", composed of ob "to(ward), against" + noxa "injury, hurt". The latter came from PIE root nek-/nok- "death". We see the pure PIE root in Latin nocere "to injure, harm", found in the English borrowings (in)nocuous, (in)nocent, and nuisance. The latter was borrowed from a French word after French had softened nocere to nuire. We find a lexical curiosity in nectar, nicked from Greek nektar "drink of the gods", even though nectar never brought death to anyone. Greek nektar was originally a compound noun comprising nek- "death" + tar- "overcoming", a combining form of ter-/tor- "to cross over, overcome"—so, the everlasting-life drink. (Let's not be obnoxious ourselves and forget to thank Joakim Larsson for sharing his curiosity about today's excellent Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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