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Pronunciation: prah-fê-læk-tik, pro-fê-læk-tik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) To prevent disease, as 'prophylactic treatment'. 2. A medicine or medical procedure for the prevention of disease. 3. (Noun) A condom.

Notes: In the adjective usage, you may add the meaningless suffix -al should you need an extra syllable, but you must add it before the adverb suffix -ly, even though it isn't pronounced, prophylactically. The noun for the adjective sense is prophylaxis. Don't forget in all these words the [f] sound is spelled PH.

In Play: Prophylactic originated in medical terminology: "Madison had become hard-hearted to the point that prophylactic heart surgery was warranted." However, it has meandered out into the general vocabulary: "A prophylactic rule in police procedures prohibits arm-twisting to obtain confessions."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Middle French prophylactique, inherited from Latin prophylacticus, which borrowed it from Greek prophylaktikos "precautionary, preventive". The Greek adjective was created from prophylassein "to guard before, prevent, ward off", comprising pro "before" + phylassein "to watch over, to guard against", a verb based on the noun phylax "guard", a word of unknown origin. The origin of pro- may be traced back to PIE per-/por- "before, forward, first", source also of English for, fore, forth, and first. In German we see it in vor "before" and Frau "woman". In Greek is emerged as para "around". (Out gratitude today is due Rob Towart, a stalwart contributor of superior Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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