• vilipend •
vi-lê-pend • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1.To abase, to hold worthless or in low esteem, to vastly underestimate. 2. To vilify, to verbally abuse or chastise.
Notes: Although we seldom hear this word, we do hear far too much vilipension (the noun) these days on the US media. If vilipension does not strike your fancy as a noun, other choices are available, such as vilipendence and vilipendency. Vilipend, in fact, comes with a large and rich family that also includes two adjectives, vilipensive and vilipendious. So, we have a panoply of variants for the successful deployment of this very Good Word in our conversations.
In Play: Today's word started out with the sense of "to hold in low esteem", so we might hear: "Those in large corporations often vilipend the contributions of small businesses in the world." Probably as a result of confusion with vilify, however, it has now taken on the meaning of that word: "For some bizarre reason political parties seem to think that vilipending each other is a solution to the nation's problems."
Word History: Today's Good Word came with the hordes of English borrowings from Old French, from vilipender, the French descendant of Latin vilipendere "to despise, depreciate". This verb is based on the adjective vilis "cheap, of little worth" + pendere "to weigh, suspend, consider". We can see the root of vilis in the English borrowings vile and vilify. The same root with a different suffix may also underlie Latin venum "sale", the same root we see in venal and vendor. The root of pendere may be found in many words having to do with hanging, weighing, or thinking, such as pensive, ponder, and pendulum. We find the sense of weighing in the related Latin word pondo "by weight", which English borrowed for its word pound. (We would not wish to be vilipended for forgetting to thank Sandy Anderson for suggesting today's very Good Word.)