• putative •
pyu-tê-tiv • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Commonly supposed without proof, reputedly true but doubtful.
Notes: The only widely used derivational relative of this Good Word is the adverb putatively. The noun putativeness is available, if needed. Putative carries a notably stronger connotation of untruth than its near synonym reputed—a bit more like supposed.
In Play: This word suggests itself when any sort of reputation is at issue: "The putative automotive expertise of the mechanic at Rex Motors was exposed when he attempted to repair the engine of my car by opening the boot." The reputation does not have to be a human one: "My dog is the putative sire of my neighbor's new puppies; however, since we had him fixed last year, he can probably beat the rap."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Latin putare "to prune, think, reflect" via French putatif (feminine putative). The underlying Proto-Indo-European root here is *peu- "to cut, strike, stamp." It also turns up in other Latin words a bit like putative in that they have to do with thinking or believing: dispute from Latin disputare "to think contentiously," impute from Latin imputare "to charge," and repute from Latin reputare "to examine repeatedly."
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