Printable Version
Pronunciation: stip-yê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To make a demand, usually as part of an agreement or contract. 2. To accept or concede a point as part of the negotiation of a contract or a court case.

Notes: Let's just stipulate that this word comes to us from the legal system, but has found its way into the general vocabulary. Can we agree on that? Maybe as we move forward. This term brings a large family with it. The abstract noun is stipulation, the potential adjective is stipulable, dropping the suffix -ate, and the general adjective is stipulatory, which retains the -ate. Someone who stipulates is a stipulator.

In Play: The first sense of today's word may be used this way: "Stipulating a 'no smoke' zone in a restaurant is like stipulating a 'no pee' zone in a swimming pool." The other sense brings up a mutually agreed-upon point: "The defense lawyer lost the case from the start when he stipulated that his client had killed the victim."

Word History: Today's Good Word is taken from the past participle, stipulatus, of Latin stipulari "to bargain for, to exact". The verb could have come from Old Latin stipulus "firm", but perhaps from stipula "a straw", from the convention of breaking a straw to ratify a promise. While we are unsure of the Latin origins, we do know how the root of this word, stip-, came to be in Latin. It came from, as usual, Proto-Indo-European stipo- "stiff", which turned up in English, well, as stiff. It also produced German steif "stiff". With suffixes it turns up in Latin stipendium "soldier's salary", which English borrowed, trimmed, and now uses as stipend. (Let us all now stipulate that gratitude is still owed Stan Davis, who recommended this word in 2006. I'm now reviewing the Good Word suggestions that I just never got around to.)

Dr. Goodword,

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