• oleaginous •
o-lee-æ-ji-nês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Oily, greasy; containing, like, or related to oil. 2. Unctuous, obsequious, overly suave and solicitous.
Notes: Although the preferred noun from this word is oleaginousness, its length and silly sound lead me to favor the rarer but more pronounceable oleaginity. The adverb is oleaginously, which can be used in many ways, including: the ring slipped off her finger oleaginously, i.e. as if greased.
In Play: A feature of county fairs back when I was a boy was a competition called the greased pole competition. In it boys tried to climb to the top of an oleaginous flag pole. Those were the days of oleaginous duck-tail hair styles held in place with an ample slathering of Brylcreem hair oil. But characters and personalities may be oily, too, and thank heaven we have a longer word than oily for such: "Some oleaginous traveling salesman sold poor Miss Judge a No. 4 shelf stretcher and promised to deliver it in two weeks."
Word History: Today's Good Word started out as Latin oleagineus "of or relating to the olive tree", but within a few hundred years its meaning had shifted to "of or related to oil". This adjective was based on the nouns olea "olive tree" (variant of oliva) and oleum "olive oil". Does oleum ring a bell? Yes, linoleum, from linum "flax, linen" + oleum "oil", was originally a company name coined by British inventor Frederick Walton. The original product of the Linoleum Company (founded in 1864) was a floor covering made of linen canvas reinforced by hardened linseed oil. The word came to rest on the floor covering itself around 1878. (No oleaginous substance can help pry loose the real name of the mysterious Grogie of the Alpha Agora, but 'twas he who suggested today's Good Word.)
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