Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêrt-n-ay-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Persistent, chronic, continuing without letup. 2. Persistently, unrelentingly stubborn, clinging fanatically to a cause or belief, adamantly refusing to surrender.

Notes: The meaning of pertinacious is very close to tenacious, so we have to be careful not to confuse them. First, remember that the root of today?s word is -tin-, not the same ten- we see in tenacious. But tenacious means simply to hold on tightly to anything—a cliff, a chocolate, an idea, a belief. The meaning of pertinacious is more focused on causes and beliefs, as a pertinacious supporter of free enterprise. The adverb is pertinaciously and we may choose pertinacity or pertinaciousness for its noun.

In Play: As we use today's word, we should stick closely to the sense of sticking tenaciously to a cause or belief: "Mildred is a pertinacious defender of a woman's right to be uppity." It is particularly useful in the political arena: "Lloyd led a pertinacious campaign to close the massage parlors downtown."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an adaptation of Latin pertinax (pertinac-s), from per "through, thoroughly" + tenax "tenacious". Both the tin- in pertinacious and the ten- in tenacious originated in the Latin verb tenere "to hold". The root turns up in various forms in English borrowings from Romance languages in such words as tendency, retain, and retinue. The original root apparently meant "hold" and "stretch", for it shows up in tetanus, from Greek tetanos "stiff, rigid", the state of something held and stretched. That is it in tendon, too, and tenuis "thin, fine", the origin of English tenuous. (Today we owe a word of gratitude to that pertinacious word maven, William Hupy, who suggested today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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