pe-rê-pê-tet-ik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A pilgrim, a wanderer, rambler, an itinerant or someone who simply strolls or paces. 2. A journey on foot, the act of walking or strolling. 3. (Peripatetic) An adherent of Aristotle, the original pacing teacher.
Notes: Today's Good Word is just as good an adjective as it is a noun. The Peripatetics, or Peripatetic philosophers, comprise the Aristotelian school of philosophy, so named because Aristotle was a peripatetic teacher, who strolled about as he thought and taught. So a peripatetic can be a wanderer, a (human) stroller, or just a pacer.
In Play: Since this word remains the same whether it's an adjective or a noun, it has a lot of applications: "Hugh Chips is a good speaker, but his peripatetic delivery drives me nuts." Hugh is a nervous pacer. Today's Good Word may also be used to refer to the activity of wandering or strolling itself: "In the course of our peripatetics across the US we were often referred to as 'a pair of pathetic peripatetics'."
Word History: Today's word is the English adaptation of Greek peripatetikos "given to walking about" from peri- "around" + patein "to pace, to walk". The root of this word is akin to Sanskrit patha "path, way", not to mention English path. The original Proto-Indo-European root is pe[n]t- "to go" with our old Fickle N that comes and goes without reason or excuse. The same root turned up in Russian put' "way, path" seen in sputnik "fellow traveler", the name of the first Russian space module. Pontiff also comes from the same source via Latin pons, pontis "bridge". It originally meant "the one who prepares the way". (We are glad that Doug Schulek-Miller prepared the way for today's Good Word by suggesting it to us some time ago.)
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