Printable Version
Pronunciation: spahn-tayn-i-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. On the spur of the moment, without preparation or rehearsal, on a sudden impulse without premeditation. 2. Occurring without apparent external cause. 3. Instinctive, involuntary.

Notes: The noun from this adjective is spontaneity, and spontaneity occurs when we do things we don't plan to do. Spontaneism, according to Karl Marx, is direct revolutionary action such as a spontaneous uprising, such as the one that happened in Hong Kong recently (2019).

In Play: The basic sense of today's word is "unrehearsed": "When the president announced his retirement, spontaneous applause broke out among the managers and their staff." It may also imply "unexpected": "When he asked his audience if they would miss him, a wave of spontaneous laughter swept over the auditorium."

Word History: Today's Good Word is based on Late Latin spontaneous "of one's own accord", from Latin sua sponte "of one's own accord, willingly". Sponte is the ablative of spons "(free) will, accord, impulse". It apparently was inherited from PIE (s)pen-/(s)pon- "To draw, stretch, spin", which also went into the making of English spin, span, and spider. Without the Fickle S, we find it in pensive, which derives from Latin pendere "to weigh". This gives us an insight into how the meaning could shift from "stretch" to "hang down", to "weigh (a thought), to consider", to "think" to "free thinking" to "(free) will". (Time now for a spontaneous show of gratitude for William Hupy, who supplied us with today's unexpectedly Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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