Printable Version
Pronunciation: si-li Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Frivolously and naively funny; whimsically stupid, goofy. 2. Slap-happy, crazy, dazed, as in "slapped silly by an offended fan".

Notes: You may think us a bit silly for calling such an ordinary word a 'Good Word'. Well, so what? Maybe a little silliness would provide a welcomed bit of relief from such trying political times. Let's take a peek inside the word itself; it is a favorite of all my grandchildren. If you think silly is a silly word, try the adverb: sillily. The noun is a bit more sedate: silliness.

In Play: Silliness is a mixture of humor and naivete: "That silly Mr. Magoo plugged his dog's leash into a wall socket and dragged his vacuum cleaner for a walk." Children do silly things a lot, such as calling wood-peckers tree-knockers or umbrellas underbrellas. Of course, the line between cuteness and silliness is very thin and depends a lot on the attitude of the observer.

Word History: In Old English today's word was gesælig "happy", derived from the noun sæl "happiness". By Middle English it had been reduced to seli and from there it came to be what it is today. You might wonder how the meaning of silly is so far removed from its cousin, German selig "blessed, blissful". As Etymonline points out, "The word's considerable sense development moved from 'blessed' to 'pious', to 'innocent' (1200), to 'harmless', to 'pitiable' (c.1280), to 'weak' (c.1300), to 'feeble in mind, foolish' (1576)". The original root was Proto-Indo-European sel- "happy". It is also the base of Greek hilaros "gay, cheerful", which English copied for hilarious, and Latin solari "to comfort", which underlies the word English borrowed as solace. (We thank Jeremy Busch for the silly moment in which he thought of sending this Good Word to us for review.)

Dr. Goodword,

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