• slight •
slait • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Less than small or little, insignificant, as 'a slight move' or 'slight matter'. 2. Small and slender in build, delicate, as 'a slight lass'. 3. (Verb) Take for granted, belittle, underestimate, as 'to slight someone of importance'. 4. (Noun) A belittling, an underestimation, as 'to take offense at a slight'.
Notes: Today's Good Word has meanings that can broadly congregate under the semantic umbrella "much less than normal". Since this sense, when attached to certain nouns, can be offensive, we can see how two of the senses of this word picked up connotations of insult. The adjective sense allows an adverb, slightly. The noun sense allows a plural, slights, and the verb sense, a complete conjugation: slights, slighted, and slighting.
In Play: Let's begin with the adjectival sense of today's word: "In Rasmussen's opinion there was only a slight difference between the three candidates for the job." We may form the comparative and superlative with suffixes: "Jeremy was always the slightest of the three brothers." The verbal sense is used this way: "Rosemary felt slighted for not having won the 'Miss Pork Barbeque' contest at the county fair."
Word History: Today's Good Word may be traced back to Proto-Indo-European (s)lei- "slimy" with a Fickle S. In Middle English it meant "smooth" but soon came to mean "slender". So, it probably came from Old Norse slettr "smooth, slick". In Low German slicht meant "smooth, ordinary", much like the Old English slicht "level, even". By Modern German it had become schlecht "bad". (S)lei also went into the making of slime, slip, and slick. Without the fickle initial S, Latin came up with limus "slime", which English borrowed as lime. (We would not like to slip and forget to thank Arnaldo Mandel for the recommendation of today's sleek Good Word from the Alpha Agora.)