Printable Version
Pronunciation: or--tnd Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Clearly and elegantly articulated (speech), sonorous, full of deep, well rounded sounds. 2. Bombastic, pompous, pretentious.

Notes: Originally, today's Good Word was used to describe clearly articulated speech, with broadly rounded Os and rolled Rs, speech that rolled trippingly over the lips. However, the melodramatic speech of the orator and stage actor of previous centuries was quickly associated with pretension and theatrical wordiness, hence, its newer meaning. Of course, you don't have to be rotund (plump, having a roundish figure) to speak orotundly (the adverb), which is to say, with orotundity (the noun).

In Play: Stage actors are most closely associated with the original sense of orotundity, since their voices must travel a great distance yet remain clear, "Hector's orotund delivery of Lear's monologue carried easily to the back row of the balcony." As drama moved from the stage to the screen, however, the second meaning began crowding out the first, "The new minister let loose such a flurry of orotund phrases, that even he lost track of what he was saying several times before he finished."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated as a Latin phrase, ore rotundo "with a round mouth": ore "with the mouth" + rotundo "round". Os is the Proto-Indo-European word for "mouth" that hardly changed in Latin. It appears elsewhere most notably in osculate "to kiss". This root also emerged in Russian ustnyi "oral" and ust'je "mouth of a river". Latin, however, harbored a peculiar sound change called 'rhotacism' that sometimes changed [s] to [r]. So, the root of os became or- in some cases: os "mouth", but ore "with the mouth". This is why we also have oral, orifice, and today's Good Word—all borrowed from Latin. Rotundus is related to a series of words referring to rolling and things that roll, including English roll and German Rad "wheel". (Today we are indebted to Ralph Mowery for this roundly entertaining Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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