Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-lij-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Having a deep and abiding reverence and devotion to a deity or deities (antonym: secular). 2. Pertaining to religion. 3. Extraordinarily conscientious or attentive to something, focused, almost obsessive.

Notes: Today we have a word that means different things to different people. It is the adjective, of course, for religion, the belief in a deity or deities. It comes with two nouns, the straightforward religiousness and the rather deprecative religiosity "excessive religiousness".

In Play: The first sense of this word may be heard in comments like this: "Some Americans are so religious they are uncomfortable with the separation of church and state." The second, broadened, sense may be used this way: "Hiram undertook his studies at university religiously, leaving his girlfriend feeling abandoned."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French religious (today religieux), inherited from Latin religiosus "conscientious, scrupulous, precise", the adjective for religio(n) "conscientiousness, moral obligation". Cicero thought it was created by combining re- "again, anew" + legere "to read". No one knows how re- made its way into Latin, but a lot is known about legere. For centuries etymologists have speculated that the original PIE word was leg-/log- "to collect, gather". There is some evidence of this in words like legion and legislature. However, they are hard pressed to explain how it could end up as lexis "word" in Greek and lex "law" in Latin. Since leg-/log- seems to have been a homophone with several other meanings in PIE ("lay" the most obvious), I have proposed that this leg-/log- originally meant "word" when the word of the monarch was the law.

Dr. Goodword,

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