Printable Version
Pronunciation: pahs-chê-lêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Noun) A position presented as a basis for further reasoning. 2. (Noun) A candidate for high ecclesiastical office awaiting papal approval.

Notes: Today's Good word may be used as a verb if we adjust the pronunciation a bit to pahs-chê-layt. The verb ending -ate makes possible the nouns postulation and postulator, as well as three adjectives, postulational, postulatory, and postulative, all of which have the same meaning: "related to postulation".

In Play: This word is rather common in the sciences, particularly logic and mathematics, though it also appears elsewhere: "Serious studies always show that people are far less competitive than economic postulates predict rational individuals to be." This sentiment may also be expressed more economically by using the verb: "Serious studies always show that people are far less competitive that economic theories postulate them to be.

Word History: English borrowed this word from French postulat with the same meaning. French inherited it from Latin postulatum "request, demand", the neuter form of the past participle of postulare "to ask, request", used as a noun. Postulare seems to have arisen from PIE prek- "to ask, request". What apparently happened to the R is that this word underwent metathesis, then rhoticism, the replacement of R by S, common in Latin. It is a bit odd, for Latin also contained a verb precari "to beg, ask earnestly", having undergone neither of these processes. This verb went on to become Old French preier "to pray", which English borrowed as pray. (The time has come to thank Colin Burt for recommending such a fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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