Printable Version
Pronunciation: s-po-z-bli Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb

Meaning: Could be supposed, conceivably.

Notes: While in some parts of the English-speaking world today's Good Word is used widely, most people seem to prefer supposedly, which means "is supposed". Supposably has been with us since the early 18th century. The meaning of today's Good Word offers a shave of semantic difference, "could be supposed". This adverb is based on the adjective supposable and comes with a noun, supposability.

In Play: Try making the subtle distinction between today's word and supposedly: "The money he says he borrowed supposably was stolen." No one has supposed the money was stolen yet. Compare this with: "The money he says he borrowed supposedly was stolen." Here people are already talking about it and have supposed it stolen.

Word History: Today's Good Word is based, of course, on the verb suppose, which comes from French supposer. Supposer is the granddaughter of Medieval Latin supponere "to put under" based on sub- "under" + ponere "to put". The shift of N to S occurred under the influence of poser "to place", origin of English pose and position. The original Latin word is a compilation of sub "under" + ponere "to put, place". Sub in Proto-Indo-European was (s)upo "under, over", with a Fickle S. In Greek it became hypo "under". The fascinating aspect of this word is that it came to English, believe it or not, as up. We can also see it in open. Apparently, our Proto-Indo-European ancestors had trouble distinguishing up from down.

Dr. Goodword,

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