Printable Version
Pronunciation: sah-pê-ri-fik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Drowsy, logy, sleepy, somnolent. 2. Sleep-inducing, that puts you to sleep.

Notes: Today's word belongs to a rather large family. It has a synonym soporiferous, which also means "sleep-inducing". To put someone to sleep is to soporate them, so inducing sleep is an act of soporation. You may also use today's word as a noun, as to take a soporific (sleeping draught or powder) before retiring. If you enjoy this word and would like to drag it out for another syllable, you may add the suffix -al: soporifical. If you use it adverbially, however, you must include this suffix, as in "Max trudged along soporifically."

In Play: Today's word is useful in emphasizing slowness and lack of alertness: "Horace, did you get enough sleep at my talk last night? You seem a bit soporific this morning." However, this word can also refer to things which induce sleep: "I should have, Trevor; I've seldom heard a more soporific talk."

Word History: Today's good word goes way back to a root *swep- in Proto-Indo-European, the ancient language from which most of the European and Indian languages developed. It is not uncommon for the combination of [we] or [ew] to dissolve into [o]. With a suffix, swep-no- became somnis "sleep" in Latin when the [p] picked up the nasality of the following [n] and became [m]. In Greek, it was the [s] that changed into [h], resulting in hypnos "sleep". English snatched both of them for its words somnolent and hypnotism. By the time this root reached English, the [w] had become [l], giving us sleep. In Russian it became son "sleep, dream" and in Sanskrit, swapa "sleep".

Dr. Goodword,

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