Printable Version
Pronunciation: êng-gwênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A soothing ointment, unction, balm, or salve. 2. Anything that soothes, smooths the way around difficulties.

Notes: However rare today's Good Word may be, it is surrounded by a rather full though equally rare family of derivations. An unguentarium is a container for unguent, used mostly by archaeologists. A maker of unguents is an unguentary or unguentarian. The adjective is unguentous "greasy, smeared with ointment".

In Play: The basic reference of today's word is any soother or restorative lotion, unction, or salve: "Lucinda Head staves off aging with every ointment, unction, balm, or unguent that flows out of a tube, bottle, or can." It may be used metaphorically for anything soothing: "Kind words were no unguent that could solace Siddie Hall for her loss of the election."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed via French from Latin unguentem "ointment", noun of the verb unguere "to anoint". Latin obtained its verb via the PIE root ongw- "salve, to anoint", source also of Sanskrit anakti "anoints, smears", Armenian aucanem "I anoint", Swiss German dialect anken "to butter", and Welsh ymenyn "butter". We find Latin grandchildren in all the Romance languages: French onguent, Italian unguento, Portuguese unguento, and Spanish ungüento. (William Hupy always has an unguentous Good Word like today's for those lucky enough to be subscribers of this series.)

Dr. Goodword,

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