Printable Version
Pronunciation: tre-pê-day-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Trembling, shaking, vibration. 2. Fearfulness, anxiety, a sense of worry.

Notes: This Good Word comes from a large and productive family. It is the action noun from the now obsolete verb trepidate "to tremble, shake". It is based on the adjective trepid "afraid, agitated, shaking with fear", most often encountered in the negative, intrepid. The verb has an adjective, trepidatory [tre-pi-d-tor-ee] "fearful", that we may use or we can return to the original, trepid.

In Play: Trepidation originally referred to physical shaking more than anxiety itself: "The susurrous trepidation of the leaves that evening made all the picnickers drowsy and a few even dozed off." Otherwise, it conjures up a sense of mild fear or hesitation from being unsure, "Matt Tremony proposed to Barb Dwyer with a little trepidation, having heard that she had turned down 11 men before him."

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin trepidatio(n) "state of alarm or confusion" from trepidare "to be alarmed, to tremble". This verb came from trepidus "fearful, anxious, upset". English borrowed the French version of this word as trepid mentioned above. We find evidence of this word throughout the Indo-European language family; in Russian it appears as trepetat' "to tremble", but in other languages it assumed a notably different meaning. The Greek derivative trapein and Lithuanian trepseti emerged meaning "to stamp, to tread on", as in treading grapes to make wine. In the Germanic languages it picked up an M, resulting in English tramp and trample.

Dr. Goodword,

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