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Pronunciation: seem-li Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, adverb

Meaning: 1. Appropriate, suitable, decorous, meet, befitting the circumstances, conforming to the standards of conduct 2. Attractive, good-looking, becoming, pretty, handsome.

Notes: Here is an adjective whose opposite, unseemly, is far more often used than the original. We no longer add the adverbial suffix -ly to adjectives that already have it when we use them adverbially, as 'to seemly reject a plea'. The noun changes the Y to I before the suffix, seemliness, not to be confused with seemingness.

In Play: This word is used most often in the sense of "appropriate for the occasion: "Maude Lynn Dresser appeared at the wedding in uncharacteristically seemly attire." However, it is still there in the sense of "attractive": "Gilda Lilly is a seemly sliver of a girl."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on a second verb, seem "to be suitable, befit", not used since the 18th century. Today's word was a gift of the Vikings on their many "visits" to England. The Old Norse word was søma "to beseem, befit", which it inherited via its Germanic ancestors from PIE sem-/som- "one, in one together, uniform", source of Sanskrit sam "together", Greek hama "together with" and homos "same", Latin similis "like", and Russian sam "self". English polished up the same PIE word as same and seem in the sense of "to appear the same as". We also see it in Icelandic sam "same", Swedish samman "together", Norwegian samme "same", and Latvian sevi "self".

Dr. Goodword,

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