Printable Version
Pronunciation: ek-spli-sit Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Precisely and clearly expressed, implying nothing, as 'explicit instructions'. 2. Readily observable, as 'an explicit sign'. 3. Sexually graphic, leaving nothing for the imagination. 4. (Archaic) Wrinkle-free, smooth, as 'an explicit forehead'.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the antonym of implicit 'implied, suggested'. Both offer the obvious adverbs and noun: explicitly (implicitly) and explicitness (implicitness).

In Play: Those of us old enough to remember that old gag involving a mislabeled peanut can with a compressed cloth-covered spring inside will understand this: "I gave you explicit instructions not to eat any peanuts. Now go change your underwear." The third sense of this word was introduced in the 60s and has already become commonplace: "Congressman Weiner had to resign his position for sending explicit photos of himself over the Internet."

Word History: English borrowed this word directly from French explicite, which inherited it from Latin explicitus "unobstructed", an odd past participle of explicare "unfold, unravel, explain", comprising ex "out of" + plicare "to fold, twist". The root of plicare is the PIE root plek- "to plait, twist", also the source of Greek plektos "twisted", past participle of plekein "to plait, twist". Latin borrowed this participle from Greek for its plectere "to plait, braid, intertwine". The past participle of the Latin word, plexus, turns up in the English term solar plexus "pit of the stomach", after the radiating network of nerves that make the stomach sensitive to punches. English borrowed several other words from Latin with this root: pliant, ply, and all the words with -plex: duplex, multiplex, etc. Since PIE [p] becomes [f] in Germanic languages, we are not surprised to find the same word arising in English flax, prounounced [flæks]. (We now wish to offer our old friend William Hupy an explicit word of thanks for submitting today's precisely Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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