• malediction •
mæl-ê-dik-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A curse, an invocation of evil upon someone or something. 2. An act of vicious slander.
Notes: Today's is a fairly straightforward Latin loan word. It offers a choice of adjectives, maledictory or maledictive, each with an adverb created by adding -ly: maledictorily and maledictively. The original underlying verb, to maledict "to curse", is no longer used by normal mortals but that does not preclude our using it should the appropriate occasion arise.
In Play: This Good Word is a loftier substitute for curse: "Fairleigh Lowe loosed an avalanche of maledictions on his colleague who pulled the chair out from under him at work." However, it can also be used as a replacement for slander: "All my wife's complaints are empty maledictions against me, motivated, no doubt, by her jealousy of my perfection."
Word History: Today's word comes from a Latin compound noun, maledictio(n-) "evil-speaking, curse", based on male "badly" + dictio(n) "saying, speaking". The root of the first word, male is also seen in malady, malice, and malaria, which originally meant "bad air". The root of the second word, dictio(n), not only was borrowed into English as diction, but the original root, *deik- "point, show", developed directly through Old English into English teach. Another variant of it ended up as English toe and Latin digitus "finger", whose root digit- underlies digital, the name of the age we live in. By the way, this same root emerged in Greek as daktylos "finger", whose root we see in pterodactyl, the wing-fingered dinosauric bird of eons gone by. (Now we should point a grateful finger at the Brazilian Dude of the Alpha Agora, one of the long-time editors of this series, Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, for suggesting today's Good Word—lest he cast a malediction upon us.)
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