Printable Version
Pronunciation: re-krê-mênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The waste portion of anything: dross, refuse, rubbish, chaff, slag.

Notes: Be careful not to confuse this word with recreant "traitor; dastard". The adjective is recremental or, rarely, recrementitious. A distant cousin, excrement, refers to bodily waste, sweat, urine, or feces.

In Play: This word has many practical, industrial uses: "All recrements must be removed from silver ore to make pure silver, which is the only form of the metal silversmiths can work with." Its meaning is very broad, allowing it to be used far from an industrial setting: "Lola liked to walk along the beach in the morning, picking up the attractive recrements of the sea."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a classical example of liquid metathesis, the tendency of Ls and Rs (liquids) to trade position with the vowels preceding them. English simply polished up Latin recrementum "refuse, waste, chaff" a bit to create recrement. Recrementum is a noun created from re- "again" + cernere, crevi, certus "to separate; to decide", seen also in the English borrowings discern, concern, certain and certificate. Cern- comes from PIE krei- "to sieve, distinguish". With an m- suffix it turned up in Latin crimen "judgment, crime", which English borrowed, via French, as crime. The same PIE word with a d- suffix traveled down through English's Germanic ancestors to arrive at Old English hriddel "riddle", which is, of course, today's riddle.

Dr. Goodword,

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