Printable Version
Pronunciation: pek-ê-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Capable of sin, given to sinning.

Notes: We generally think of impeccable "flawless" as an orphan negative, without a positive. But impeccable also means "sinless" because its positive counterpart, peccable, means "sinful". The noun from this word is peccability. It has a cousin with a similar meaning, peccant "sinful", which also has a noun, peccancy "sinfulness".

In Play: Today's word shouldn't be used in referring to those people known to be sinful; peccant is a better word for them. Today's word is closer in meaning to fallible: "Those of us in the USA today look forward hopefully to a new era of government in the hands of new though nonetheless peccable leaders." Peccable, however, could find plenty to do around the office: "I think we should ask someone less peccable than Robin Banks to look after the coffee money."

Word History: Today's Good Word is built on the Latin verb peccare "to stumble, go astray, sin". The root is ped-/pod- "foot" found in such borrowings as pedal, pedestrian, podiatrist, and tripod. Apparently a suffixed form of this word similar to ped-cos "misstep" existed at one time before the formation of Latin, and this word gave rise to pedcare "to misstep". The D in this word then predictably converted to C, leaving Latin with peccare. The meaning then moved from an actual misstep to a metaphorical moral one, "to sin". So today's Good Word has made a remarkable journey to its current form and meaning—and all on foot! In Portuguese and Spanish this root became pecado and, in Italian, peccato, all of which mean "sin". I could also mention peccadillo, another related word. (Today we thank the impeccable Susan Kappel for raising the question, "Where are peccable and ravel?")

Dr. Goodword,

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