Printable Version
Pronunciation: ste-ri-ê-taip Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An oversimplified and rigidly fixed preconception of the characteristics which typify someone or something. 2. A person or thing that conforms to such a preconception. 3. In printing, a solid plate cast from a mold taken from the original loose type-set, to be used for printing multiple identical copies instead of the original.

Notes: The adjective of today's Good Word is either stereotypic or stereotypical, but we must include the meaningless suffix -al in forming the adverb: stereotypically.

In Play: We have all been victims of stereotypes at one time or other in our lives: "Sally, you must get beyond the philandering stereotype you have of me, and see my real inner self." It is a natural response of our need to categorize everything we talk about—even things that do not fit in any available category: "She landed the role because she fit the stereotype of feminine pulchritude popular among Hollywood types."

Word History: This word is a compound made up of Greek stereo- "firm, solid" + French type "printing type". Greek stereos was inherited from PIE ster- "rigid, strong". This word also became Latin sterilis "barren, unproductive", Sanskrit sthirah "hard, firm", starih "a barren cow", Persian suturg "strong", Lithuanian storas "thick" and stregti "to become frozen", Russian stary "old", English starch and stare. French type was inherited from Latin typus "figure, image". Now, since the original print type was carved individually from wood or molded from lead, the stereotype was a single solid sheet of type that could be used over and over without variation, hence the figurative sense that we use primarily today (see Meaning above). Stereophonic sound represented a solid curtain of sound, but since it required two speakers, stereo came to mean "two coordinated objects", hence stereoscopic.

Dr. Goodword,

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