Printable Version
Pronunciation: ræm-ê-fai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To branch out, to extend multiple branches, to split up in a branching manner. 2. To have consequences.

Notes: Today's Good Word belongs to a large family of related words referring to various types of branching. We are all familiar with the noun, ramification, but do we all realize that this noun also means "branching" and "all the branches on a tree"? The family includes two adjectives: ramiform "having a branching shape" and ramiferous "having branches".

In Play: Anything that sends out shoots or branches also ramifies: "The road through the woods ramified at several points, causing Francine to lose her way." It is also the case that anything with consequences ramifies: "The failure of the committee to reach a decision ramified in ways no one wished to think about."

Word History: English borrowed today's Good Word from French ramifier, a reduction of Latin ramificare. Branches, branches everywhere! This verb originated as a compound verb containing ramus "branch" + -ficare, the combining form of facere "do, make". (In fact, all English verbs ending on -ify owe their suffix to Latin facere.) The root underling the ram- in ramus originated as the Proto-Indo-European root, wrad- "branch, root", which also provided Latin with radix (radic-s) "root", borrowed by English in radical. In fact, English root and German Wurzel "root" also come from the PIE root for "root". Apparently, our PIE ancestors did not distinguish between above-ground and below-ground ramifications. (The ramification of Grogie's suggestion of today's Good Word in the Alpha Agora is that we owe him or her a debt of gratitude.)

Dr. Goodword,

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