sus, suss

Printable Version
Pronunciation: sês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. [Verb] Figure (out), resolve, solve. 2. [Verb] Suspect. 3. [Noun] Knowledge, know-how, the ability to figure things out, as business sus. 4. [Noun] Suspicion or a person under suspicion, a suspect.

Notes: Today's word is one of a pair (at least) created from the prefix of a longer word. The other is dis, clipped from disrespect. The remarkable aspect of today's word is how fast its meaning has changed since it first appeared in the 1970s. Sus originally meant "suspect, suspicion", as when you sus someone is up to no good, or the police bring in someone sussed of breaking the law. The word was originally spelled with one S, sus, but the double Ss in its various forms, susses, sussed, sussing, has led to most people spelling the root today with two Ss, suss.

In Play: Let's start with a sentence containing the verb twice, each time with a different meaning: "Everyone leaving the diamond mine was sussed and searched by the guards, but they were not able to sus out who was stealing the stones." The management decided that the guards didn't have enough sus to do their jobs and replaced them.

Word History: As already mentioned, this word is a clipping of either suspect or suspicion. The choice is moot since both words derive from the same source: Latin suspicere "to look at secretly", whose past participle is suspectus "looked at secretly". This verb is made up of the prefix sub- "under" + spicere "to look (at)". Sub turns up in several borrowed English words and phrases implying secrecy, such as sub rosa and surreptitious. The verb root appears in many English borrowed words implying seeing or looking, such as spectacle, spectator, and inspect. (We suspect Joayne Larson has a good eye for Good Words and thank her for picking this one out for us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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