Printable Version
Pronunciation: pê-ri-fê-ri Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The outer boundary of an object or area, perimeter, edge. 2. A marginal aspect, secondary status of lesser importance than other aspects.

Notes: Remember that the [f] sound is spelled PH in this word. The adjective that comes with this English word is peripheral and the adverb, peripherally. The noun is peripherality.

In Play: Periphery originally referred to physical geography and still may be used that way: "The chorus was arranged in a circle around the periphery of the audience, thus enveloping it with the concert." Today, however, it is used more often in its figurative sense: "Women find themselves less and less on the periphery of the business world."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French periferie (Modern French périphérie), inherited from Late Latin peripheria, borrowed from Greek peripheria "circumference, outer surface". The Greek word is based on peripheres "rounded", from the verb peripherein "carry around", made up of peri- "around, about" + pherein "to carry". This Greek word was made from the Proto-Indo-European root bher-/bhor- "to carry", which also produced the English verb (to) bear and the noun burden. The initial [bh] sound became [f] in Latin, where we find ferre "to carry" and fortuitus "happening by chance". In Greek it also became pherne "dowry", which we see in paraphernalia "woman's property aside from her dowry". (Today's Good Word was recommended by our long-time, prolific friend William Hupy, certainly not a peripheral contributor to this series.)

Dr. Goodword,

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