• proselytize •
prah-sê-lê-taiz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To convert to your way of thinking, cause, or religion; to make a proselyte or convert.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a verb built from the noun proselyte "convert" by adding the suffix -ize. The action noun from today's verb is created by adding the suffix -m, proselytism. A person who proselytizes is either a proselytizer or simply a proselytist. Did you follow all that? A proselytizer proselytizes proselytes. Of course, outside the US, the spelling is usually proselytise for the verb and proselytiser for the personal noun.
In Play: In the US, Mormons are most widely known for door-to-door proselytizing, but all missionaries proselytize: "Chuck Roste's church sent him to New Guinea to proselytize the natives there, but he never returned." Of course, proselytes need not be religious converts: "Luke Warme has been proselytizing for his free downtown parking plan for years now, but has converted few to his way of thinking."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Greek proselytos "stranger, proselyte (someone who comes to a place)", a word comprising pros "to, toward" + elyth-, a variant of the verb erkhesthai "to come". The origin of erkhesthai is a mystery, but we do find pros in a few other words like prosody "the theory of verse and poetry", which comes from pros + ode "song". (Today we are once again grateful to Mark Bailey for sharing his vocabulary with us here and in the Alpha Agora through his suggestions of excellent Good Words like this one.)