Printable Version
Pronunciation: spli-net-ik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Bad-tempered, irritable, peevish, spiteful. 2. (Outdated) Related to the spleen.

Notes: That this word originally meant "related to the spleen" is evidenced by splenectomy "removal of the spleen". Splenetic has at least three synonyms for the first sense above, spleeny, spleenful, and spleenish. We may extend splenetic by the meaningless suffix -al, to splenetical, which must be added to create the adverb, splenetically. It has a more common synonym used only in the second sense, splenic, as a 'splenic artery'.

In Play: This word is common in the sense of "peevish": "The comment sections of most opinion pages are usually filled with splenetic invective, rather than the careful reasoning of the opinions they respond to." Again, "The president's splenetic rants against all who displease him would suggest every day is a bad hair day for him."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Latin spleneticus, the adjective for splen "spleen", which Latin borrowed from Greek. The association of the spleen with irritability comes from the days of Greek medicine. Greek medicine (and Mesopotamian before it and Roman after it) operated on the assumption that the body was controlled by four fluids, called humors. (1) Blood, the sanguine humor, affected enthusiasm, activity, sociability. (2) Phlegm, the phlegmatic humor, affected lethargy, sentimentality. (3) Black bile, the melancholic humor, affected wisdom, calmness. (4) Yellow bile, the choleric humor, affected irritability. Guess which organ produces yellow bile? Right, the spleen. (Let us now show our gratitude to the ever-sanguine David Myer, who suggested today's topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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