Printable Version
Pronunciation: sæng-gwin Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Red, reddish, ruddy, as a sanguine complexion. 2. Confident, cheerfully optimistic, hopeful.

Notes: The four humors of the body were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. It was believed from the days of Greek medicine until the 19th century that these humors must be kept in balance for good health. Imbalance leads to the domination of one over the others. Too much blood led to cheerful optimism, so the Latin word for "bloody" (whence today's Good Word) assumed this meaning. The adverb for this adjective is sanguinely and the noun, sanguinity. We don't have space to cover all the derivations from this word, but some of the more interesting ones are sanguinary "blood-thirsty", sanguinivorous "blood-sucking", and the verb sanguify "to produce or convert to blood"—all a bit messy. Sanguinary means "bloodthirsty".

In Play: This word kept its original meaning of "bloody" in the sense of red or ruddy: "Seymour Shade was of such a sanguine complexion that he had to avoid too much sun for fear of blistering." However, its 'humorous' sense is probably implied more often today: "I must confess that I am not sanguine about your chances for rising to the presidency given your record of armed robbery."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin sanguineus "bloody, blood-red", an adjective based on sangui(ni)s "blood". No one seems to know where sanguis came from, but it spread throughout the Romance languages as Latin broke up into dialects that went on to become languages like French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. We see it today in French sang, Italian and Portuguese sangue, and Spanish sangre, the root of sangria, the red wine cooler. Sangría means "bleeding" in Spanish. (I have always been sanguine that Jim Marlin would receive a note of gratitude for suggesting today's Good Word—and here it is.)

Dr. Goodword,

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