• seminary •
sim-ê-ne-ree • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A place of origin and/or early development. 2. A school for the education of proper young ladies. 3. A school for the training of the clergy: priests, ministers, or rabbis.
Notes: Like most nouns ending on -y in English, the plural of today's Good Word is formed by changing the Y to I and using the suffix -es: seminaries. A person who attends a seminary is a seminarian. The related verb seminate originally meant simply "to sow", but now means to spread in all directions, to disseminate.
In Play: The basic sense of today's word is a place where real or metaphorical seeds are planted: "The school marching band became a seminary of experimental jazz that produced most of the jazz greats of Union County." That makes it a good substitute for the overused cliché hotbed. This word is rarely used in the US to refer to women's institutions, but it remains the most widely used name for schools that train the clergy: "While Father Canby Allgood was at St. Peter, Paul, and Mary's Seminary, he kept a small seed garden to remind him of the etymology of seminary."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin seminarium "seed bed", the neuter form of seminarius "of or related to seed", used as a noun. This name is appropriate since a seminary is where the seeds of religious upbringing are sown. The root of this word is semen "seed", which comes from the same earlier Proto-Indo-European root that gave us English sow and seed. The Latin version turns up in several English words borrowed from Latin such as seminal "starting a new line of thought" and disseminate "to spread like broadcasting seeds". (Today we thank Tony Hughes for his seminal suggestion that led to the write-up of today's Good Word.)