Printable Version
Pronunciation: pæl-i-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 the agent noun, 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: Today's Good 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 the adjective of the verb palliate from Latin palliare "to cloak, palliate", a verb based on the noun pallium "cloak". Pallium is an extension of palla "upper garment worn by women", also the origin of English pall. These words all came from a predecessor, pol-/pel- "skin, pelt, covering", in Proto-Indo-European, the ancient language from which most European and Indian languages developed. In French we find it as peau "skin" and poil "body hair". The Ps in this language changed to Fs in English and other Germanic languages (Latin pater, English father), so this root came to English and German as Fell "pelt", though the English word is now rather archaic.

Dr. Goodword,

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