• epitome •
Pronunciation: i-pit-ê-mi • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An abstract, summary, précis, condensation. 2. A perfect example or embodiment of a particular type or quality, a paragon.
Notes: Today's Good Word brings with it a plethora of relatives. The adjective is epitomic(al) and the adverb, epitomically. The verb is epitomize, which in its turn has its own family, including epitomizer, epitomization, and epitomizational. Keep in mind the E at the end of this word is not silent.
In Play: The order of the definitions above in Meaning is the historical order, not the order of frequency of use. In fact, the second meaning is more frequently encountered: "Natalie Cladd is the epitome of today's well-dressed woman." However, we arrived at this sense via the first: "Reader's Digest publishes every month epitomes of articles appearing in a wide variety of journals."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the English version of Middle French épitomé from Latin epitome "abridgment", borrowed from Greek epitome "abridgment". The Greek word was derived from the o-grade stem of the verb epitemnein "cut short, abridge", composed of epi "into" + temnein "to cut". The o-grade of this verb also gave up tomos "volume, section of a book" and ektome "cutting out", incorporated in many English medical terms indicating operations: tonsillectomy, appendectomy, etc. (Gratitude should now be extended to Jackie Strauss of Philadelphia, the epitome of a Good Word contributor, for recommending today's Good Word.)