Printable Version
Pronunciation: po-pU-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A mixture of dried flowers, herbs, and spices in a bowl to add fragrance to the air. 2. A collection of incongruous things, a miscellaneous medley, a hotch-potch.

Notes: Today we have a beautiful French word with a lovely meaning. It retains its French pronunciation with a silent T and accent on the final syllable. Because it has remained unchanged since the early 17th century, it has no English progeny.

In Play: Smells goodThis word is most often used in the first sense above: "The kids placed perforated pots of their mama's potpourri all over the house in hopes its fragrance would hide the smell of what they were smoking." However, it just as easily refers to any hodgepodge: "Pat Agonia's house was what she was about, a potpourri of the world, a salmagundi of styles collected on her travels."

Word History: Today's Good Word has travelled a long, long way semantically while remaining phonetically motionless. It was borrowed wholesale from the Old French phrase pot-pourri "stew of mixed meats and vegetables", literally "rotten pot", a loan translation of Spanish olla podrida "rotten pot". Pourri is the past participle of pourrir "to rot", from Vulgar (Street) Latin putrire, devolved from Classical Latin putrescere "to become rotten", the inchoative ("becoming V") of putrere "to be rotten", a verb based on putere "to stink". Latin came by the root of its word from PIE p(e)u- "to rot, stink", source also of Sanskrit puyati "stinks", Persian puda "rotten", Latin pus "pus", Icelandic fýla "stink", English foul, German faul "rotten, decayed", Swedish fel "wrong", Latvian pūt "to rot, putrefy", and Lithuanian pūti "to rot, decay".

Dr. Goodword,

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