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Pronunciation: prahg-nahs-tê-kayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To predict future occurrences or directions based on a specialized knowledge and a careful reading of facts. 2. To indicate, to foreshadow or show signs of.

Notes: This verb has fathered a large and happy family, including the process noun, prognostication, an actor noun, prognosticator, and an adjective, prognosticative. The grandfather of this family is prognosis, the prediction of the outcome of a disease or other progression. The adjective of this noun, prognostic, may also be used as noun denoting a fact or indicator upon which a prognostication is based, as consumer confidence can be an economic prognostic.

In Play: Today's Good Word refers to a purely scientific foretelling as opposed to the magical implication of foretell or foresee, or the religious implication of prophesy: "It is impossible to prognosticate the behavior of a child based on current research in child psychology." This word can also be used in the sense of foreshadowing: "The bountiful snowfall on the slopes prognosticates a busy winter for the local hospitals."

Word History: This is another word we borrowed from Latin, this time the past participle, prognosticatus, of prognosticare "to predict". This verb comes from the noun prognosticum "sign of the future", which the Romans borrowed from the Greek prognostikos "foreknowledge". This noun is made up of pro- "before" + gi-gnoskein "to know", based on the same root, *gno-, that gave us English know. This is the same gno- that we see in Latin cognito "known, understood" and a myriad of English words like cognitive and incognito. It also produced English ken "know, knowledge", still used in the Scottish dialects. (Let it be known that today's Good Word was suggested by Susan Lister, to whom, I foresee, we will all be grateful.)

Dr. Goodword,

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