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

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To project or perceive an abstraction as an object or thing, as to reify the elements (wind, thunder, rain) as gods. 2. (Marxist Philosophy) To depersonalize, to perceive people as things or objects, as to reify workers as numbers on a spreadsheet.

Notes: The process of reifying is called reification, and a reificatory (the adjective) process it is, too. Someone who reifies would be a reifier, whomever that word could refer to. Notice how the Y is replaced by I before suffixes beginning with E.

In Play: When anything abstract becomes a real object in any sense of the word, it has become reified: "Farley always thought that Gwendolyn was pulchritude reified." Now that Marxism is pretty much dead, everyone is free to use today's word in its second sense: "In all his memos and everything he says, Palmquist reifies his office staff as robots under his complete control."

Word History: The root of today's Good Word is Latin res "thing, affair", also the root of real and the re- in republic. The latter word comes from the Latin phrase res publica "affair(s) of the public". (Russian retains the S in its respublika "republic".) The ablative plural case of res is rebus "by means of things", now used in English to refer to a puzzle in which words are represented by pictures. This root does not show up in many other Indo-European languages. Sanskrit rah "possession" is probably related, but there is no evidence of it in Germanic languages like English. (When it comes to Good Words, Lew Jury's suggestions, like this one, are always the real thing.)

Dr. Goodword,

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