Printable Version
Pronunciation: ræn-dêm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, adverb, noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Without pattern, purpose, or design; by chance, unsystematic, as 'a random passage from a book'. 2. (Adjective) Belonging to a set of elements with equal probability of occurrence, as 'a random sample'. 3. (Adjective, noun) Unfamiliar, unknown, as 'some random guy' or 'to regularly date randoms'. 4. (Noun, archaic) Great speed, force, impetuosity, as 'to drive with great random'.

Notes: This is a lexical oddity because it entered English as a noun with one meaning but has turned into an adjective with three distinctively different senses (see above). The adverb, randomly, and noun, randomness, are derived from the adjective.

In Play: In the sense of "unsystematic", today's word may be used in expressions like this: "I think, if everyone practiced random acts of kindness, the world would be a better place." In the sense of "equal probability", expect it in sentences like this: "Fred was chosen from a random sample of cheerleaders for the position in marketing." The current noun usage is new: "I can foresee problems with playing with randoms online."

Word History: The adjective sense of today's Good Word is the result of a reduction of the phrase at random "at great speed" (hence "carelessly, haphazardly") in Middle English. The noun random came from Old French randon "rush, disorderly surge" from the verb randir "to run". French seems to have borrowed this word from some ancient Germanic ancestor of German rennen "run" and English run. These words originate in PIE rei-n- "to flow, run" (as water runs). In Old English run was rinnan. (Today's word came not from a random subscriber, but from a prolific contributor of Good Words; namely, Tony Bowden of London.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!