• supine •
su-pain • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Bent or lying backwards with the back down facing upwards. 2. Back side down, upside down, as a hand which is palm up.
Notes: Today's word comes with a rather rich family. The adverb is supinely, and we have a choice of nouns: the rather clumsy supineness or the more elegant supinity. The verb supinate means to turn something upside down and biologists use the adjective resupinate to refer to flowers that seem to be upside down, such as orchids. The antonym of supine is prone "face down".
In Play: Today's Good Word most often refers to a face upwards position: "Harley Quinn slipped on the black ice and landed supine, though without serious injury." However, the implication of face upward is "back downward", and that interpretation works, too: "Anita Job returned home with hand supine, asking yet again for money."
Word History: English picked up supine via French from Latin supinus "turned or bent backwards; indolent, lazy". This word apparently came from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root of super "over, up" and sub "under, below" + -inus, a noun and adjective suffix. Both Latin super and sub (Greek hyper and hypo) come from the same PIE root upo, which apparently meant "over" or "under". Supine is thus related to two Latin antonyms. The same PIE root came to English as up and above. (So long as I am not permanently supine, I will be grateful to Sara Goldman for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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