• prodigious •
prê-di-jês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Huge, enormous. 2. Extraordinary, excellent, outstanding.
Notes: The sound and spelling of today's Good Word are obviously related to prodigy, but beware: the meaning doesn't! Although prodigy refers to someone with a prodigious talent, in the 18th century, the adverb of this word, prodigiously, assumed the guise of an intensifier with a meaning no more than that of very. The result has been the meanings we see above today.
In Play: The sense of "huge, enormous" is usually used in the abstract with this word: "Matilda is a wonderful conversationalist but beware: she can manufacture a prodigious amount of poppycock in conversations." This word can also substitute for "excellent" or "outstanding": "Laurencio did a prodigious job in organizing the Finnegan Falls Fog Festival this year, right down to the pea-soup fog! I don't know how he arranged that."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin prodigiosus "unnatural, strange. wonderful" from prodigium "an omen, sign, portent". Prodigium is also the source of prodigy. It is probably the remains of a derivation based on ancient Proto-Indo-European pro "before, ahead" + ag- " say, speak" + ium, neuter noun suffix—with an unexplained D in between. If so, today's word is related to English adage, which comes, via French, from Latin adagium "adage", based on ad "(up)to" + ag- "say".
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