Printable Version
Pronunciation: tahn-so-ree-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Related to a barber, or what he does.

Notes: So what do you do when you need an adjective that refers to a barber or his work? Clip! Clip! Clip!Barberish (1440) and barberly (1573) didn't last long and apparently appeared in print only once. Barbarian is taken and barberous is too close to barbarous. Today's Good Word solves the problem. It also provides an adverb: tonsorially. If we are brave, we could surrender barber altogether and complete the set by using tonsor instead. Barber originally limited barbers to the treatment of beards, since it is based on French barbe.

In Play: We can use this word around home or at the office: "Pierce Dearing needs tonsorial attention: his hair is getting rather shaggy." We could say things like this about boys who choose those weird hairdos with spikes and colors: "Lindsey Woolsey's head is always a site for tonsorial creativity—not a site for sore eyes."

Word History: Today's Good Word was created by adding the adjectival suffix -al to Latin tonsor "a shaver, barber, shearer". Tonsor came from tonsus, the past participle of tondere "to shear, shave". Tonsure, referring to the partial or whole shaving of the head as part of a religious rite, shares the same source, Proto-Indo-European tem- "to cut". Latin added a suffix -d, which would have turned the [m] into an [n]. We see the same stem without the -d in epitome from Greek epi- "on, over" + tomos "a cut, section", which was to say, "a cut above". The medical terms referring to operations always include tom-, e.g. appendectomy, lobotomy, tonsilectomy. Which reminds me: today's word is unrelated to tonsil, which comes from tonsillae, literally "small goiters", the diminutive of toles "goiter". (Today's Good Word was recommended by Iain Smallwood, a full Lexiterian in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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