sêk-singkt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Tight, close-fitting, tightly wound around. 2. Terse, concise; short and to the point.
Notes: When two Cs occur back to back, the first is pronounced hard [k], the second, soft [s] if followed by an I or E. It occurs in many other words, such as access, accident, and vaccine. Before other vowels, they are usually pronounced like a single K: account, occasion, occur. The adverb for today's word is succinctly and the noun, succinctness. It is good to speak succinctly, which is to say, with succinctness.
In Play: The original meaning of today's Good Word is, alas, slowly fading from our vocabularies: "Her lustrous hair was wound around her head in succinct coils." She might also have been wearing a succinct dress if it fitted tightly. I think we should hang on to this sense of the word. Of course, we should also keep the current meaning in mind since it instructs us how to speak and write: "Fiona's succinct reply, 'Drop dead', left Wendell with the impression that she simply was not interested in what he had to say."
Word History: Middle English succincte "girded" came directly from Old French, which inherited it from Latin succinctus, the past participle of succingere "to gird from underneath". This verb is made from sub "under, below" + cingere "to gird". The semantic connection here is in tightening up; tightening up our speech and writing makes it more succinct. English later borrowed the Spanish derivation of this same stem, cincha "saddle girth", to refer to the belt that holds a saddle on a horse, the cinch (belt). Making the cinch tight guarantees the security of the saddle, hence the metaphorical meaning of cinch is "a sure thing". (It is always a cinch that the words G. N. Bludworth suggests are as intriguing as this one, which he succinctly recommended for today's Good Word.)
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