Printable Version
Pronunciation: prur-ri-ênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Having an excessive interest in sexual matters. 2. Sexually lustful, lascivious, lewd. 3. (Rare) Itchy.

Notes: Here is a word that is always topical, given the prurient interests of the US media. The nouns is prurience or, if you can't give a sentence the particular lilt you want for lack of an additional syllable, pruriency. The adverb, of course, is pruriently.

In Play: This word is most often heard as an attribute of interest or curiosity: "I wouldn't say that Natalie Cladd was obscenely dressed, but her outfit would appeal to a normal man's prurient curiosity." The second sense of this word is becoming more popular every day: "June McBride denied that she refused to marry Phil Anders because of his prurient advances. 'It was his prurient mind', she said."

Word History: English seems to have borrowed this word directly from Latin prurien(t)s, the present participle of prurire "to itch; to itch for". This word seems akin to pruna "glowing coals". If so, it originated in the PIE root preus- "to freeze; burn", a contranym. Contranyms are words that are their own antonym, like cleave and sanction. It made it through English's Germanic line to English freeze and frost. In Latin, "burn" became "itch", perhaps because the Romans took itches to be mild burns. The English concept of the the seven year itch explains the bridge between "itch" and prurient.

Dr. Goodword,

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