im-mæ-kyê-lêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Spotlessly clean, without stain or blemish, flawless. 2. Free of sin or failure, without any shortcoming, faultless, as an immaculate record.
Notes: Today's word is ostensibly another orphan negative, a negated word without a positive correlate, but it is not. Though we normally do not speak of maculate clothes and thoughts, maculate, meaning "blemished, stained", is an English word found in all dictionaries. So why not use it? The adverb for today's word is immaculately and the noun, immaculateness. Maculate has a corresponding set of derivations.
In Play: The best way to remember the meaning of today's word is "without a blemish" in the literal and figurative senses of that word: "If Madeleine's academic record were as immaculate as her clothes, she would have her pick of the Ivy League universities." Do keep in mind, however, that as a result of phrases like immaculate conception, there is always a hint of righteousness lingering about this word: "Only someone with an immaculate mind could have programmed this software."
Word History: This Good Word is the English version of Latin immaculatus, the negated past participle of maculare "to blemish, soil", made up of in- "not" + maculatus "blemished". The verb comes from the noun macula "spot, blemish". The origin of macula is rather cloudy, possibly because it has lost an initial S, a not uncommon occurrence in the history of Indo-European languages. If the original word did begin with an S, it is probably related to German Schmutz "dirt" and maybe even to schmieren "to smear". (Today we thank Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, Uncronopio in the Alpha Agora, for maintaining his immaculate record of suggesting only fascinating words for our series.)
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