Printable Version
Pronunciation: vi-shi-ayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To ruin by removing or corrupting essential elements, to corrupt, destroy, or pervert. 2. (Law) To render ineffective, to invalidate.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes from a large if corrupt family. The action noun is vitiation, which is what vitiators do. Vitiating, as a vitiating amendment, is preferred as the ative adjective over vitiative, though I see not why. Things that may be vitiated are vitiable while those that may not be, are unvitiable—all good words if not Good Words.

In Play: Vitiation renders something ineffective: "Derry Yare vitiated all our work on the car engine tinkering with it for 10 minutes!" We find it both at work and in politics: "The bill making the highway a toll road was vitiated by an amendment that allowed 'frequent users' to drive on it toll-free." But vitiation occurs everywhere, even around the house: "The boys ran through the house with their friends and muddy feet, and vitiated a week's worth of cleaning and waxing the floors."

Word History: This word comes from vitiatus "faulted", the past participle of the Latin verb vitiare "to make faulty". The verb was derived from vitium "fault, defect, blemish", the same word that went on to become French vice, which English borrowed lock, stock, and definition. The adjective from vitium in Latin was vitiosus "faulty, full of defects". By Medieval Latin it was viciosus and ripe for English to pick and polish into vicious. Vitium was so popular in the expression vitium parere "to find fault" that the phrase was encapsulated into a single verb vituperare "to blame". Yep, you guessed it: English vituperate. (Let's not vitiate Sue Russell's contribution of this Good Word to our series by forgetting to thank her roundly for it. Thanks, Sue.)

Dr. Goodword,

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