Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-mis Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, predicate only

Meaning: Derelict, neglectful, failing to fulfill a duty.

Notes: Today's adjective belongs to an odd class of adjectives that may only be used in the predicate of sentences: we can't say "a remiss person". Glad, ready, and alone are others in this class. In fact, all derived adjectives beginning with the prefix a- fit into this class, for example: aloud, awry, afloat.

In Play: Remiss can imply simple carelessness, negligence, or just plain forgetfulness: "How could you be so remiss as to leave your kids in the supermarket?" It may also imply laziness or incompetence: "Siobhan was remiss to leave the back door unlocked so that raccoons could get in and raid the pantry."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin remissus "relaxed, not tight; negligent", the past participle of remittere "send back; slacken, abate". It comprises re- "back" + mittere "to send", from which we also get mission. The root of this verb occurs with many Latin prefixes besides re-: transmittere "to send over", emittere "to send out", and submittere "to set under, to send down". The ultimate source of mittere is assumed to be smit- "throw" with a Fickle S. The only other occurrence of this word is in Avestan, an ancestor of Persian, hamista- "throw under, subdue". So moving beyond Latin is fraught with danger.

Dr. Goodword,

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