Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêr-ræm-byê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. (Intransitive) To wander or amble around, to stroll with no particular destination in mind. 2. (Transitive) To walk around something, to inspect an area on foot, as to perambulate a property before buying it.

Notes: Today's Good Latinate Word comes with an embarrassment of trimmings: perambulation, the action noun, perambulator, the personal noun (with that special meaning of "a baby carriage"), and a wide selection of adjectives: perambulatory, perambulant, or even the plain and ordinary perambulating.

In Play: Perambulating is walking, usually at a slow pace, without a destination: "Sir Cuitus is currently perambulating in the park—looking for his mind, I suspect." The noun perambulator refers to the vehicle that allows parents to perambulate with their babies. As those outside the US know, this word has been drastically shortened to pram: "Hon, the baby jumped out of the pram today and chased a dog down the street. Maybe he's outgrown it."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from the Latin word perambulatus "walked through, about", the past participle of perambulare "to walk through, about", a verb comprising per- "through, about" + ambulare "to walk." The underlying verb here, ambulare is, of course, also the source of English amble. Its present participle, ambulan(t)s "walking", became attached to mobile hospitals in French, where hôpital ambulant "field hospital" literally meant "walking hospital". Since ambulances are rather small mobile hospitals, the transference of this word to them was rather inevitable. (Without any perambulation, I would like to come directly to the point and thank Susan Ardith Lee for her suggestion of this very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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