Printable Version
Pronunciation: it-êr-ayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: Repeat, say or do again.

Notes: The New York Times Magazine back in 2010 ran an article on how today's Good Word was all the rage in Silicon Valley. Iterate has a synonym, reiterate. This word should mean "to iterate again", but dictionaries do not distinguish them at all. Today's Good Word has a noun, iteration, and an adjective, iterative. The latter is used mostly in linguistics to refer to verb forms in some languages that indicate repeated action.

In Play: These days iterate is a synonym of reiterate: "Bunsen Berner iterated the same experiment that had exploded—with the same results." If you care to preserve the inherent difference between the two words, you might want to say to Berner, following his second accident: "I do not like iterating what I say, Bunsen: do not reiterate that experiment that exploded."

Word History: Today's Good Word started out as the past participle, iteratus "repeated", of the Latin verb iterare "to repeat". This verb was made from the adverb iterum "again", a word analyzable into i-terum, containing the Proto-Indo-European pronominal root i-. We find this root again in Latin item "also". When English borrowed this word, it, too, meant "also", but it usually preceded every article in a list of things, much as we would use also today. We can easily see how it was mistaken for "an article in a list", its approximate meaning today. (We shouldn't have to iterate the expression of our gratitude to Suzanne Russell for suggesting today's fascinatingly Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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