Printable Version
Pronunciation: wêrd-êl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A creative design composed of words; an artistically arranged word cloud. 2. (also spelled wortle) One of several pivoted pieces forming the throat of an adjustable die used in extruding wire and pipe.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an odd character that has been loitering in the English vocabulary since the 15th century in the second meaning above but has been reactivated in the first meaning as a result of the appearance of word inside it. Its recent resurrection in the realm of graphic arts looks good, since -le is a fairly common suffix in English.

In Play: So far today's word has not broken free of the world of graphic arts: "Rudolph made an absolutely gorgeous wordle of all the profanity he knows, but was nonetheless expelled from school." However, I can see metaphoric uses for it, should it eventually escape the graphic arts: "Rather than saying a few words, I would say Reginald babbled in wordles, words arranged more for their beauty than for clarity."

Word History: The original wordle, which may have been better spelled wortle, lies in a fog of mystery; no one knows where it comes from. The resurrected wordle, however, seems to be a recent derivation from word + -le. The ancestry of word leads all over the Indo-European landscape. It emerged as verbum "word" in Latin and as rhetor "speaker" in Greek. Lithuanian vardas "name", Sanskrit vrata "command", and a host of Germanic words like German Wort and Swedish ord are all related. The suffix -le is no longer active in English, but historically it has marked instruments, as in treadle and candle and diminutives as in puddle (a little pool) and sparkle, a little spark. The -le in the revived version of wordle is neither of these, but then it is a real suffix that makes this word legitimate.

Dr. Goodword,

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