Printable Version
Pronunciation: skêr-ê-lês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Vulgar or obscene, expressed in vulgar or obscene terms. 2. Containing vulgar, obscene, or slanderous accusations.

Notes: Today's word is an extension of scurrile (see Word History), a word that is still available though a tad archaic. This parent word has the advantage of a full family, including a noun, scurrility, adverb, scurrilely, and a verb scurrilize. Scurrilous has only the adverb, scurrilously, and a longish noun, scurrilousness.

In Play: Scurrilous is seldom used to refer to obscene language, but it certainly remains fit for the task: "Scurrilous language reflects scurrilous minds." It is most often used to refer to vicious false verbal attacks: "Everyone agreed that Dwight Mann did not deserve the scurrilous accusations made against him by his business partner."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an extension of its ancestor, scurrile, with the suffix -ous. Scurrile has the same meaning as scurrilous and came to French from Latin scurrilis "jeering, buffoonish", the adjective of the noun scurra "buffoon". Scurra was borrowed from Etruscan, a language spoken in Italy before the arrival of the Romans. We only have only a few short phrases from this language on pottery shards, lintels, and the like, so little is known about it.

Dr. Goodword,

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