• opulent •
ah-pyê-lênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Sumptuous, luxurious, exhibiting great wealth and richness, having plush, luxurious appointments. 2. Great in size or numbers, thick or dense with.
Notes: The fact that English has more words referring to wealthy lifestyles than to poverty reflects less the economic status of the English-speaking world than its aspirations: plush, luxurious, posh, sumptuous, and today's Good Word are used more often to refer to luxurious hair, plush upholstery, sumptuous greenery and opulent dogwoods than monetary richness. Today's word may be used adverbially with the appropriate suffix (opulently) and the noun is formed by replacing the final T with CE: opulence.
In Play: Opulence first and foremost describes luxurious surroundings: "Jason Rainbows lives in an opulent yacht docked where he can make a quick getaway should investigators discover how he paid for it." Figuratively, however, it refers to any sort of superabundance: "Tiffany Lampe was known more for her opulent candlelight dinners than the opulence of her generosity."
Word History: Today's Good Word made its way to us from Latin opulentus "rich, wealthy". This word is based on the noun opus "work", which we use in English as a stand-alone word and also as a root in words like opera and operate. The adjective comes from a suffixed form op-en-ent-, which became opulent- by way of 'dissimilation', one of the linguistic means of avoiding sound repetition in a word. Latin didn't like the en-en syllable combination in openentus and replaced the first N with L.
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