Printable Version
Pronunciation: flek-sê-ter-ri-ên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: Vegetarian but not strictly so, semi-vegetarian, meat-reduced.

Notes: Vegetarian emerged in English in the late 1830s. Since then a bevy of dietary words has popped up by analogy with it. A fruitarian is a person who lives on fruit, a vegan is a vegetarian who eats no animal or dairy products, and a pescatarian refers to someone who eschews all meat but seafood. Flexitarian is quite at home among this flock of lexical birds. Flexitarianism refers to the eating habits of flexitarians.

In Play: Today's word may be used as an adjective: "Margie claims to be vegetarian, but I know for a fact that she is flexitarian." It may just as well be used as a noun: "Our circle of friends includes vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans, and flexitarians."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a blend of flexible + vegetarian. Flexible was borrowed whole from Old French flexible, a word passed down to French from Latin flexibilis "pliant, tractable, flexible". The Latin word was built on flexus "bent", the past participle of flectere "to bend". Where Latin found this word is a total mystery. The word vegetarian was popularized following the 1847 foundation of the British Vegetarian Society. It was formed by combining vegetable and -arian, as in librarian. Vegetable came from Old French vegetable "growing, growable", which French inherited from Latin vegetabilis "enlivening, growing", an adjective from the verb vegetare "to come to life, living". Vegetare is the frequentative of vegere "to be lively". Latin inherited this word from PIE weg-/wog- "active, lively", the source also of English wake and watch. We also see its traces in Latin vigilis "wakefulness", whence English vigil. (Gratitude is due our South African friend since 2005, Chris Stewart, for wondering about the names of all the dietary menus and for sharing today's new Good Word with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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