Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahb-vi-yayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To make unnecessary. 2. To eliminate or prevent.

Notes: The meaning of this Good Word is anything but obvious. In fact, it is semantically unrelated to obvious, even though the two words do share a common root. So beware: today's Good Word does not mean "to make obvious". The noun is obviation and, although there is an adjective obviative that should have a related meaning, this adjective is used only to refer to an obscure grammatical function found in a few American Indian languages.

In Play: To obviate the obvious, let's first use this word in an ordinary turn of phrase like, "Mike Raffone's introductory remarks obviated most of the visiting lecturer's speech." Unfortunately, a form of obviation in its second sense has recently become the way to do business: "The new plant in India obviated most of the jobs in his division."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated as obviatus, the past participle of Latin obviare "to meet, withstand, prevent". This verb contains the preposition ob "to, toward" and via-re "go, travel", which comes from via "road, way". Via we see in Via Appia "the Appian Way", Italy's oldest road, in Spanish va "go", and in our preposition via "by way of?. The original root also emerged in Latin as veh- which underlies our word vehicle. In Germanic languages that [v] became a [w] so we see it in German Wagen (as in Volkswagen "people's car") and English wagon, plus English way. Obvious comes from Latin obvius, an adjective built from the phrase ob viam "in the way, within reach".

Dr. Goodword,

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