Printable Version
Pronunciation: su-preem or syu-preem Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Highest, loftiest, dominant, greatest in authority, or rank. 2. Greatest in importance or significance, ultimate.

Notes: Today's most superior word comes with a stately noun, supremacy, and a handy adverb, supremely, which is not necessary with the verbs meaning reign. These verbs generally take the bare adjective: "In our house, mama reigns supreme" (NOT supremely), meaning mother has the last word. Anyone who believes one race is superior to others is a supremacist. Do not confuse today's adjective with that of sauce suprême, the crème sauce often served with fowl. This suprême is never seen without its hat.

In Play: The Supreme Court is supreme because it is the ultimate court, the court of final decisions. There is no appeal beyond this court: "In our house, son, your mama is the Supreme Court. If she says, 'No', you can't appeal to me." The Supreme Being, of course, is God, who we hope will protect our troops in the field from the necessity of making the supreme sacrifice.

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us via French from Latin supremus, the superlative degree of superus "upper", an adjective created from the preposition super "over". Super, which we also use 'as is' in English as an adjective and prefix, comes from the original Proto-Indo-European word, (s)uper "over", with a Fickle S, an S that is sometimes there, sometimes not, for unknown reasons. [S] at the beginning of Greek words was sometimes reduced to [h], so its variant was hyper "over", which English also uses freely in a different sense. By the time the root percolated through the Germanic languages, it had become English over and German über. (Since the US Supreme Court is often in the news, Susan Lister thought that we should look into this Good Word. We are supremely delighted that she reminded us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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