Printable Version
Pronunciation: ve-n-fi-shl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Poisonous, with poison, by means of poison. 2. By means of witchcraft or otherwise related to witchcraft.

Notes: This word is almost the antonym of the word it resembles and is likely to be taken for: beneficial. Anything veneficial is the furthest from beneficial. It is the adjective for the archaic word venifice "magic potion, poison". It comes with an adverb, veneficially, and a synonym, veneficious.

In Play: The lovely aspect of this word is that it sounds so much like beneficial, it will be taken as this word if glossed over casually: "Oh, yes, I totally agree; Lockhart's work has been very veneficial for the company." In fact, it is easy to find employment for this word at home as well as at the workplace: "Sure, Roderick, there are probably many veneficial ingredients in hamburgers and French fries that the medical experts overlook." Voila! You have told the truth without ruffling anyone's feathers.

Word History: Today's Good Word is, surprisingly, related to Venus, the Roman goddess of love. It derives directly from the Latin word veneficus "poisonous", the adjective of venenum "poison". Even though Portuguese and Spanish seem to tolerate the two occurrences of -en in their words veneno "poison", English reduced the two occurrences to one in venom (Middle English venim). Both Venus and venenum come from PIE wen- "to desire, love". (Venus is the Latin word for "beauty".) So, how did the PIE word for "love" come to be a word for "poison" in Latin? Since our ancestors were fascinated by love potions, we may speculate that the meaning shifted to "love potion", from there to simply "potion". Now, since magic potions could serve good or bad ends, we may further speculate that the meaning shifted to "bad potion", and thence to "poison". However, all this is pure speculation.

Dr. Goodword,

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