Printable Version
Pronunciation: tooth-sêm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Appetizing, delectable, tasty, flavorful. 2. Good looking, attractive, even sexually so; beautiful, handsome.

Notes: I love garden path words like today's, words that lead the mind astray by looking and sounding nothing like their actual meaning. Toothsome appears to be a synonym of toothy, but its meaning is far, far from "having prominent teeth". It does come with a regular adverb, toothsomely, and a standard noun, toothsomeness.

In Play: The first sense of today's word is the least distantly related to its etymology: "Cookie Baker can always whip up a toothsome meal in a few minutes." The figurative sense is even farther removed: "Arnold was happy for his assignment to Paris, not the least because it put some distance between him and his boss's toothsome wife."

Word History: Today's Good Word is composed of tooth + -some. Tooth in Old English was toð, plural teð. Danish and Dutch tand, and German Zahn "tooth" suggest the historical presence of a Fickle N, but that isn't the case here. Old English dropped Ns regularly before consonants that do not completely stop the flow of air from the lungs (spirants), compare goose with German Gans, five with German fünf, and mouth with German Mund. The Latin word for "tooth", of course, is den(t)s from its PIE ancestor dent-/dont- "tooth. We see the Latin word in English borrowings like dental and indent. The Greek word was odontos that we see in borrowings from that language like orthodontic and mastodon. (Now let's thank Daniel Obertance of Ohio, who spotted the fascination in today's Good Word and shared it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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