Printable Version
Pronunciation: ren-ê-tênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Not pliant, inflexible, resistant to pressure. 2. Reluctant, recalcitrant, resisting compulsion, die-hard.

Notes: Although today's Good Word is a tad rare, it is a good word to replace the mundane adjective die-hard, which seems to be crowding it out of our vocabularies. It comes with two nouns to choose from, renitence or, if you need another syllable for your poem, renitency. The adjective itself may be used as a collective noun (in the linguistic sense), for example: "Only the renitent among his followers remained loyal." Remember to spell the last syllable -ent and not -ant.

In Play: The first sense of today's word may be seen in this sentence: "My abs are far less renitent than I would like." The second meaning, "recalcitrant", may be used in a sentence like this one: "The renitent members of the Flat Earth Society even maintain a Web presence."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from renitent(s) "resisting", the present participle of Latin reniti "to resist". This word is composed of re-, an intensive prefix here + niti "to press forward". Niti seems to be related to nictare "to blink, wink", apparently because when they pressed forward, our ancestors closed their eyes. If this is true, English borrowed the base form of this verb as nictate "to wink", and the iterative (repetitive action) form nictitate "to wink". This is about all we know about the origins of today's Good Word. Some have tried to trace the original form into the Germanic languages, but with no persuasive results. (We must not be renitent in thanking Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, an editor of this series, for his suggestion—some time ago—of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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