Printable Version
Pronunciation: vêr-sê-têl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Able to perform several unrelated tasks: capable of several functions (versatile machine) or having multiple talents (versatile athlete).

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with a healthy family of derivations. The adverb is versatilely and the noun, versatility [vêr-sê-til-ê-tee]. A versatile person is a jack-of-all-trades, but tools may be versatile, too; the Swiss Army knife is a good example of a versatile tool.

In Play: Versatility is a capacity to do a wide variety of different things: "Mildred must be versatile in her job since she has to do everyone else's job when they are out of the office." It can also reflect a wide-ranging repertory of different ways of doing the same thing: "Shadburn is very versatile when it comes to wriggling out of chores around the house: he has an excuse for every occasion."

Word History: This word is an English modification of Latin versatilis "versatile", an adjective based on versatus "turned", the past participle of versare "to turn". The original Proto-Indo-European root from which versare is derived produced many other words, not only those ending on -vert borrowed from Latin, like revert, convert, and invert, but a series of interesting words that originated in English. Wrist, wrath (from "twisted, tortured"), and wrestle are among them. Old English had a word, wyrd that meant "fate, destiny" from this root. Today it is an adjective, weird, by association with the twists and turns of fate that can bend even the most versatile of us out of shape.

Dr. Goodword,

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