Printable Version
Pronunciation: -li-yê-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Reducing pain or suffering, ameliorating, improving. 2. (Noun) Anything that reduces pain or suffering or improves a situation without offering a permanent cure or solution.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the adjective of the verb palliate "to help, ameliorate, reduce bad effects". As a Latinate verb, the process noun palliation is available alongside today's adjective used as an instrumental noun, (a) palliative. This word has a synonym from the same verb, palliatory, which is occasionally used instead of today's word. Both have adverbs; for instance, medicine may be used palliatively or palliatorily.

In Play: This word basically refers to agents that reduce physical or mental pain: "I wish aspirin were a palliative for the pains-in-the-neck I have to work with at the office." However, any improvement that does not solve a problem may be a palliative: "Closing the street would only be a palliative for the damage the potholes are doing to cars traveling over it."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on Late Latin palliatus, the past participle of palliare "to cloak, conceal", a verb built on pallium "a cover, cloak". Latin seems to have built its word on PIE pel-/pol- "cover, wrap, skin, hide", which also underlies Sanskrit patala "cover, veil", Greek pelas "skin", Latin pellis "hide, fur", Icelandic feldur "pelt, hide", German Fell "hide, pelt", French peau "skin" and poil "body hair", Russian plen "skin, film" and polotno "canvas, cloth", and Slovenian pleva "chaff". The meaning of the PIE word seems to have wandered a bit off course, maybe because a cloak offers mitigation against cold air, not the complete warmth of an overcoat.

Dr. Goodword,

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