Printable Version
Pronunciation: seedh Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Churn, be turbulent, boil, as 'a seething sea'. 2. Be filled with intense but unexpressed anger, as 'to seethe at all the bad press'. 3. Teeming or swarming with a mass of moving things, as 'a cellar seething with spiders'.

Notes: The past tense of today's word, when it meant "boil", was sod and the past participle was sodden. Today, however, both these forms have been replaced by seethed and the verb has become a regular verb, with its present participle, seething, being used as a noun and adjective. Don't forget to write the final silent E in this word whenever this word appears without a suffix.

In Play: Today's word has barely moved away from its original sense of "boil": "Seamus Allgood decided not to take his boat out on such gray, seething waters." Since seethe implies anger, we don't have to say, 'seethe with anger': "Mr. Milquetoast seethed for weeks at the news that Gladys Friday had been promoted over him." This word is most used in hyperboles: "The city was seething with cops after an anonymous caller threatened a massacre."

Word History: Today's Good Word set out in Old English as seoþan "to boil, be turbulent". It was a strong verb whose past tense was seaþ and past participle was sodden. Its Proto-Germanic ancestor was something like seuthan, source also of Dutch zieden "cook, boil" and German sieden "to seethe". Proto-Germanic came by its word from PIE root seut- "boil, agitate". Driven out of its literal meaning by the verb boil, it survived only in its figurative senses. Some etymologists derive Russian šutit' "to joke around", Lithuanian šiausti "to brush, winnow", Latvian šaust "to flagellate, flail", and Slovenian šutec "jerk, fool" from the PIE word.

Dr. Goodword,

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