Printable Version
Pronunciation: o-vêr-mêch Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb, adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. (Adverb) Excessively, extensively, too much. 2. (Adjective) Excessive, extensive, too much. 3. (Noun) Excess, superfluity, too much.

Notes: Today's word is an oddity built out of an oddity. Much serves as an adverb, adjective, and noun as does the compound overmuch. An attempt to regularize the adjectival sense by suffixing -ness to it, but overmuchness didn't go over so well.

In Play: We hear such sentences as this when overmuch is used as an adverb: "Shirley didn't worry overmuch about housekeeping." As an adjective, it is heard in expressions like this: "Herman didn't lend overmuch credence to what Madeleine said." And, as a noun: "No one in the office expected overmuch from Gladys Friday."

Word History: Today's odd Good Word is a compound comprising two adverbs, over + much. Over came from PIE uper "over, beyond", the same source as Greek hyper, German über, Danish and Norwegian over, and Swedish över. Much is much more interesting. In Old English it was micel and by Middle English it had become muchel. Both Old and Middle English forms continued in Scotland as mickle and muckle. Everywhere else only muchel survived, shortened to much. OE micel goes back to Proto-Germanic mekilaz, based on PIE meg- "big, great", source also of Greek megas "large, great", whence English mega "vast" and Sanskrit maha "great", as in Mahatma Gandhi "Great Gandhi". In Latin it emerged as magnus "large, great", found in many English Latinate borrowings, like magnitude, magnanimous, and magnificent. (Let's all yet again thank Professor Kyu Ho Youm, Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair, University of Oregon, contributor since 2009 of fascinating Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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