Printable Version
Pronunciation: trê-kyê-lênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: You don't have to drive a truck to be truculent: today's Good Word means 1. combative, pugnacious, belligerent or 2. cruelly fierce, savage, heinous, ferocious.

Notes: Since we havw already discussed truck and truckle, we thought we would round out our treatment of words containing truc- with today's offering. The noun is truculence and the adverb, truculently. Let's hope that none of us meets up with a truculent trucker trucking down the highway.

In Play: A truculent reply may be simply combative, "Your truculent reply does not bode well for an amicable settlement of the issue." However, the Islamic terrorists who killed 42 innocent people in Bombay, 61 in New Delhi, and 56 in Amman, Jordan, several years ago were truculent in the second sense of today's word. This sort of truculence fuels terrorist organizations.

Word History: Today's sad word is another Latin captive, from truculentus with the same meaning as its English counterpart. It is based on trux ([truc-s]) "fierce". The root of trux, truc-, came from PIE tre- "to cross over, get through, surmount" + -k, a PIE adjective suffix. Today's meaning of this stem apparently derives from the sense of "surmount, overcome". Since PIE [t] becomes [th] in Germanic languages like English, we expect it to show up in Middle English thrillen "to pierce, make a hole", though it might come as a surprise that this word became today's thrill. It is also surprising that the thrills of the nose became nostrils (originally nose-thirl), with the [th] retreating mysteriously back to the original PIE [t]. (Our thanks goes out to M. Henri Day, a man of little truculence but with two good nostrils for fascinating words like today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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