Printable Version
Pronunciation: swahv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: (Usually applied to men) Charming, sophisticated, elegant, urbane.

Notes: This word comes with an adverb, of course, suavely, and a noun, suavity, which can also refer to sweetness of sound, smell, and taste. This sense is expected due to the source of the word (see Word History). We also have a rare, perhaps archaic, verb with an unexpected meaning: suaviate "to kiss".

In Play: Today's word is heard often in the company of sophisticated: "Perry Moore told Randy Guy that if he were a bit more suave and sophisticated, women would like him more." The epitome of suavity was a fictitious British spy: "James Bond was as suave a man as could ever be."

Word History: English borrowed French suave in the 16th century. Old French suef "sweet" had become suaif (feminine sua[i]ve) from Latin suavis "sweet, delightful". Latin inherited the word from PIE swadwis from swad- "sweet, pleasant", which underlies Indo-European words in several languages. They include English sweet and Greek hedone "pleasure", the origin of English hedonism. Latin also kept the original PIE root for its suadere "to advise, promote", found in the English borrowings persuade, dissuade, and persuasive. (Now let's all thank Rob Towart, who must be suave from all his sophisticated reading, for recommending today's elegant Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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