Printable Version
Pronunciation: væ-kyu-i-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Emptiness, empty space, absence of matter, a vacuum. 2. Inanity, banality, vapidity, as 'talk filled with vacuities'.

Notes: The difference between vacuity and vacuum is this: vacuum may mean either "absolute emptiness" or "reduction of air pressure below that of the atmosphere". It may also refer to a hoover, a vacuum cleaner. Vacuity refers mostly to figurative emptiness, inanity, meaninglessness. Both are nouns related to the adjective vacuous.

In Play: Even though the basic meaning of today's Good Word is "emptiness", seldom is it used to refer to physical emptiness: "Izzy Dare is an empty shell of a man whose vacuity is matched only by his banality." More often it is used to refer to abstract emptiness: "The vacuity of the new workplace policies wasn't lost on anyone."

Word History: Middle English borrowed vacuite from Old French, which inherited it from Latin vacuitas "emptiness", based on vacuus "empty". Vacuus was inherited from the PIE root wak-, an extended form of root euê- "to leave, abandon". The sound [u] frequently changes to [w] before vowels, e.g. language and US English jaguar. The name of the letter W is "double-u", from the days when U was written V. So, euê- became wak-, which Latin spelled vac- as in vacatus "emptied", the past participle of vacare "to empty", which English borrowed in various forms for its vacate, vacant, and vacation. The Germanic languages developed it into wan- apparently, for we find it in English wane and Old Norse (Viking) vanta "to lack", which English borrowed as want "need, lack". (Thanks to Robert Jordan who recommended today's intriguing Good Word, far from a vacuous suggestion.)

Dr. Goodword,

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