kahn-sê-mêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Perfect and complete in every respect; having all the necessary qualities. 2. Possessing supreme mastery or skill at doing something.
Notes: Today's Good Word is an adjective, which should not be confused with the verb consummate [kahn-sÍ-mayt], which differs only in the pronunciation of the last syllable, which has a bit more accent. Keep in mind that other derivations, such as the noun consummation, bear the meaning of the verb "to complete, carry out completely", rather than that of the adjective. The adjective has only an adverb, consummately; not even the potential noun consummateness is used in English.
In Play: We are doing something consummately when it can't be done any better, period: "Whom should I believe? Amos told me that Amanda Lynn is a consummate musician but Andy says she only plays the radio." We can use this word when we mean the best at absolutely anything: "Al Falfa played the consummate fool asking the boss for a raise the day after the lay-offs were announced."
Word History: Today's word comes from the past participle, consummatus, of the Latin verb consummare "to complete", based on con "with" + summa "sum, total". Summa is related to the prefixes mentioned in our recent discussion of subdolous. Rather than from (s)up- "under, beneath", summa comes from (s)uper "over, above" with a suffix and a lot of wear and tear over the years. However, it started out as Proto-Indo-European super-bhw-o "being above" and a dozen or so changes and 2000 years later it turned up in Latin as summa. If you go to college, try to graduate summa cum laude "with highest honors".
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