ahm-ni-fe-ri-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Of all kinds, of all sorts, in all ways or fashions.
Notes: Since this word's meaning is so similar to that of multifarious, today's Good Word has drifted out of common service. The meanings of these two adjectives, however, are subtly different, so the careful speaker and writer will always distinguish them. Multifarious means "of many kinds" while omnifarious means "of all kinds" (all inclusive). Today's word may be used as an adverb (omnifariously) or a noun (omnifariousness) with the appropriate suffixes.
In Play: If the coverage is broad but not all-inclusive, it is better to use multifarious: "The multifarious styles of clothing at the reception reflected the host's cosmopolitan tastes in friends and acquaintances." However, if every kind of variation is really what you mean, you need today's Good Word: "The omnifarious views of the participants made the conference a great success."
Word History: This word comes directly from Latin omnifarius "of all sorts" made up of the root of omnis "all, every" + far-, a variant of ferre "to carry, bear" + ius, an adjective suffix. We had discussed the relation of Latin ferre to the English verb bear before, so let's take a look at omnis and its root omn- today. It seems to have derived from the Proto-Indo-European root op- "work", found in such borrowed English words as operate and opera. However, the same root turns up in many words meaning "very many" or "very much", e.g. opulent and optimum. Now, if the [p] were to end up before an [n], we would expect the [p] to become nasalized like the [n], making it [m]. That is apparently what happened in the case of omnis. (We are grateful to Susan Hays and her omnifarious English vocabulary for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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