Printable Version
Pronunciation: pi-thee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Containing pith, the soft inner core of plant stems, feathers, and the like. 2. Dense in content, short and to the point, as a pithy statement or magazine article.

Notes: Remember to swap out the Y for an I whenever you add an ending to today's Good Word: the adverb is spelled pithily and the noun, pithiness. Also the comparative and superlative forms are spelled pithier and pithiest. The pithiest article of clothing we might wear is a pith helmet, a helmet made from the pith of the dried sola, a tall swamp-growing plant of India. (Be careful using this word if you lisp.)

In Play: Good writing is pithy, somewhere between verbose (too many words) and cryptic (too few), but leaning toward the latter: "Well, I didn't find the memo justifying all the layoffs very pithy at all." Pithiness is usually a good thing but not always: "Yes, well, I agree that 'Get the Dickens out of here!' is a very pithy expression of your feelings, but in some situations subtlety is preferable to pithiness."

Word History: The origin of today's Good Word remains a mystery. What we know is that it is related to pit in the sense of a fruit pit which, in Dutch, means "marrow, kernel". We would seem to have borrowed that word from Dutch, but how the [t] > [th] and the meaning shifted to what it is today have us stumped. (We are happy that Dee Smith was not stumped as to how to slake her curiosity about this word and grateful that she suggested we share it with everyone.)

Dr. Goodword,

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