Printable Version
Pronunciation: res-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Anxiously nervous from being held back, impatient and fidgety from frustration, jittery. 2. Difficult to control, unmovable, stubbornly refusing to move.

Notes: Today's is another curve-word, a word that is not what it seems to be. Rather than meaning "rested", "resting", or "restful", today's word means just the opposite: "nervous, anxious, jittery"—more on the order of restless than any of the expected. The adverb is, as you would expect, restively, and the only noun is restiveness.

In Play: People tend to become restive when they are nervous from being restrained or cooped up: "Amanda Lynn's string orchestra concert soon had her audience restive and looking at their watches." But then almost any kind of nervousness can lead to restiveness: "The more wine Phil Anders poured into Prudence Pender's glass, the more restive she became."

Word History: Today's Good Word came to English from French restif (feminine restive) "stationary", an adjective from the verb rester "to stay, remain". French inherited this verb from Latin restare "to keep back", made up of re- "again, back" + stare "to stand". The root of the Latin word came from Proto-Indo-European sta- "to stand; to stay" and, yes, that is it in English stand and stay. The PIE root turns up in most Indo-European languages: German stehen, Russian stojat', Hindi sthaan, all meaning "stand, stay". The sense of "unmanageable" and "fidgety" emerged in the 17th century from the notion of a horse refusing to move forward, which reminds me: steed and stallion also come from the same root. Horses often stand on their hind legs like a stallion when they are nervous from being held back when they want to go.

Dr. Goodword,

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