Printable Version
Pronunciation: trem-yê-lês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1.Trembling, shaking, vibrating, quivering ever so slightly. 2. Nervous, unsteady, agitated, fearful, since we tend to shake at things we fear.

Notes: Today's Good Word is related to the archaic verb tremulate, so the action noun is tremulation, not tremulosity, though this word has currently been used 656 times on the Web. The abstract noun is tremulousness.

In Play: Small vibrations characterizes many varieties of music (and is marked by the international Italian term for it, tremolo): "Guy loved to play tremulous flamenco melodies on his guitar." The connection between meanings one and two above is obvious in this example: "At her job interview, Blanch Dwight was as tremulous as a bowl of jello."

Word History: Tremulous is a minor English touchup of Latin tremulus "quivering", from tremulare "to tremble", which French also touched up to create trembler "to tremble". English borrowed this one, too, as tremble. Latin came by its word from PIE trem- "to shake", which emerged in Greek as tremein "to shake", in Russian as tryasti "to shake", in Lithuanian as tremti "to drive out". Latin tremulare is an extension of the PIE word, but Latin also used the word by itself for its tremere "to shake" and formed a noun, tremor, referring to a much grander shaking. English stole this one whole and complete. (Now let's all bow to our old friend Lew Jury, who recommended we explore today's Good Word several years ago.)

Dr. Goodword,

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