Printable Version
Pronunciation: ahm-ni-bês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, adjective

Meaning: 1. (Noun) A four-wheeled vehicle for carrying many people, a bus. 2. (Noun) An anthology, a book containing several previously published works. 3. (Adjective) Including many items, as 'an omnibus crime bill'.

Notes: Today's Good Word, when used as a noun referring to a vehicle, is generally 'clipped' down to just bus. The whole word today is used only as an adjective or noun referring to an anthology. Clipping can leave only the first syllable, doc for doctor, only the last, as in today's word. Rarely does it leave only a middle syllable, as in flu for influenza.

In Play: The whole word is used as a noun only in reference to a collection of previously published works: "Rhoda Book's four novels just came out in an omnibus edition." As an adjective, it refers to any all-in-one object: "Omnibus stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and are growing in number and pressuring department stores to expand their offerings."

Word History: Today's Good Word results from clipping the French phrase (voiture) omnibus "(vehicle) for all". Omnibus itself is Latin omnibus "for all", the dative plural of omnis "all". The clipping, when used to refer to someone who assists a waiter in a restaurant, busboy, is attested from 1880, probably because of the four wheeled trolleys busboys often use to carry dishes and silverware back to the kitchen. Bus in this sense went on to become a verb, as in 'to bus tables'. Latin omnis was produced by the same PIE root as opera, op- "work, produce abundantly". Op-ni- would have naturally assimilated to om-ni-. Opera is the plural of Latin opus "work". German üben "practice" comes from the same source. (Gratitude today is due Chris Stewart, our long-time contributor from South Africa, for contributing today's fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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