• opprobrium •
ê-pro-bri-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: 1. Disgrace or reproach brought on by extremely shameful conduct. 2. The shameful behavior bringing on opprobrium in the first sense. 3. The reproach, scorn, or contempt caused by shameful behavior.
Notes: Despite the wide use of today's Good Word, it has accumulated a very small family. The adjective and adverb opprobrious and opprobriously are used occasionally in phrases like, opprobrious actions, actions that deserve reproach or opprobrious remarks, remarks showing contempt for opprobrious behavior.
In Play: Today's word refers to the worst kind of disgrace and is used when words like reproach, censure, and reprehension are not strong enough: "Hitler's suicide hardly approaches the opprobrium from the devastation he visited on Europe." The word is so powerful and profound, metaphoric usages are difficult to find. It is best we use it only literally: "The opprobrium leveled at Saddam Hussein during his years in power had no effect on the man."
Word History: This word comes from Latin opprobrare "to reproach", a verb derived from ob- "against, toward" + probrum "reproach". Probrum comes from Latin pro- "before" + bro- "bear, carry". Bro- is a metathesized form of PIE bher-/bhor-, found in many PIE languages, such as Sanskrit bharati "carries", Albanian barrë: "burden", Russian b(i)rat' "to take", Armenian berem "bear, bring", English bear, burden, and the barrow in wheelbarrow. The PIE sound [bh] ([b] with a puff of air) became an [f] at the beginning of Latin and Greek words, so Latin ferre "to carry" and Greek ferein "to bear" come from the same PIE word. (I hope we all bear tidings of gratitude to Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira for suggesting today's profoundly Good Word.)
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