Printable Version
Pronunciation: prê-er-ri-sis Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: The ability to choose, the power to make a decision.

Notes: Today's Good Word is not completely 'naturalized' in English. Rather, it lies on the periphery of the English vocabulary, where the good Doctor likes to hang out. It originates with the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who claimed that proairesis is the self; it defines who we are. This makes it an interesting and important word. Because of its lack of 'naturalization', no adjective has yet been proclaimed, though proairetic would be expected.

In Play: Despite its illegal (unnaturalized) status among English words, it serves a real lexical need: "Judy Side is absent proairesis; she can't reach a decision about anything." This need pops up often: "Willy Knilly! Show some proairesis and choose a darned color!"

Word History: This word is a transliteration of ancient Greek proairesis "choice of one thing before another", comprising the prefix pro- "before" + (h)airesis "choice" from pro(h)airein "to choose deliberately, to prefer". The root of this word also produced heresy and diaeresis "the splitting in two of what seems to be one syllable", as in prempt and coperate. Etymologists aren't sure, but it may have derived from Proto-Indo-European ser- "to seize", which we find in Hittite sharu "booty" and Welsh herw "booty", though the semantic trail from this word remains difficult to follow. (We are happy the mysterious Grogie of the Alpha Agora had the proairesis to choose today's Good Word and recommend it to us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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