Printable Version
Pronunciation: pleth-ê-rê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An excess of blood in the body causing a ruddy complexion and possible puffiness. 2. A superabundance of anything, too much, too many or just a profusion or abundance.

Notes: Most dictionaries today concede that this word can refer to merely an abundance of something; however, as the reference to blood shows, it originally referred to an excess. The line is between much and too much, however, is a very fine one—at what point do we have too much money or chocolate? The plural of this word in the medical world is plethorae, which may be used outside that world as in plethorae of both money and chocolate. Plethoras is occasionally used, too. The adjective is plethoric, pronounced [ple-th-rik] or [pl-tho-rik].

In Play: The world today is faced with a plethora of problems created by overpopulation and global warming. However, plethorae are found closer to home, too: "Mom, please don't ask another thing of me: I have a plethora of objectives I must complete before going to bed tonight!" Doesn't every teenager talk like that? Plethorae also turn up in politics: "Bob Taille has such a plethora of volunteers for his political campaign that he doesn't need me."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us via Latin from Greek plethora "fullness", the noun of pleos "full". The same root turned up in Latin with a suffix -n as plen-us "full", which wound up in English as plenty, plenary "full, complete", and plenum "meeting with all members present", the neuter of Latin plenus . After adding its own -n suffix, Russian reversed the order of the L and vowel (metathesis) to get polnyi "full. English metathesized the L, too, played around with the vowel and added its own suffixes to produce both full and folk. (I am sure a plethora of readers feel a full sense of gratitude to Jan Arps of Greensboro, North Carolina, for suggesting we run today's interesting and useful Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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