Printable Version
Pronunciation: vee-vê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Interjection, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Interjection) Enthusiastic support: Long live...! Hurrah for ...! as in Viva Obama! 2. (Noun, British) An oral exam or interview (pronounced vai-vê).

Notes: Today again we get two words for the price of one. Even though they share the same source, they are now clearly separate words. The interjection has not fully joined the English vocabulary: we still associate it with the Spanish-speaking world, and hear it mostly in expressions like "Viva Zapata" (the movie), or "Viva Mexico!" But it may be used with other names. The noun is a shortening of the phrase viva voce "by living voice". Vivas in the British-speaking world are qualification exams for university. You may also viva such an exam, using the noun as a verb.

In Play: Almost anything that makes us jubilant deserves a Viva!: "Viva flu season! Professor Henkel will be out of class the rest of the week!" The noun viva refers to any type of oral exam or interview in the United Kingdom: "Chris Cross was sure he would do well on his viva so long as the examiner didn't notice the notes scribbled on the palms of his hands."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Italian viva "(long) live, may you live", the 3rd singular present subjunctive of vivere "to live", ultimately from Latin vivere "to live". Viva is also the Portuguese subjunctive, and its infinitive is viver. The Latin root goes back to the Proto-Indo-European base gwei- "live, life", which emerged in various forms across modern and ancient Indo-European languages. In Greek, of course, it came up bios "life", the root of which we find in the English name for the study of life, biology. In Russian, the initial G became ZH, producing zhit' "to live" and zhivu "I live". In Old English it appeared as cwic "alive", preserved today in that sense of the word quick, as in the phrase "the quick and the dead". (Viva Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, one of the Good Word editors, who is always quick to suggest interesting Good Words himself!)

Dr. Goodword,

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