Printable Version
Pronunciation: dip-sê-may-nee-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Alcoholism.

Notes: I suppose a medical term that has been abbreviated (dipso) since at least the 1880s has proved itself a member of the general vocabulary. A person suffering from alcoholism would be a dipsomaniac, which comes with an adjective, dipsomaniacal.

In Play: Frieda Gogh read an advert in today's paper that read "Wanted: a few hopeless drunkards for testing a new patent remedy for dipsomania." Don't forget the clipping of this word, dipso: "I would like to see Jim Beam's liquor bill; he is such a dipso."

Word History: This word comes via Latin ultimately from Greek dipsomania "thirst madness" comprised of dipsa "thirst" + mania "madness". We have no idea how dipsa got into Greek, but we do know where mania came from; it shares a source with mental. In PIE there was a word men-/mon- "to think, mind". In Greek it was associated with mental instability, as mænad "frenzied woman". This sense carried over to mania, but only in Greek. In Latin it retained its reference to the normal mind, as we see in Latin men(t)s "mind", which also emerged as the suffix -mentis. Today this is how most Romance languages create adverbs from adjectives, for example Portuguese, Spanish, Italian calmamente "calmly", which is, etymologically, "with a calm mind". (Let's all thank Jeremy Busch, who recommended polydipsia "inordinate thirst". However, when we discovered that we had not explored dipsomania, we decided we should do it first.)

Dr. Goodword,

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