æb-stem-i-ês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Modest in food and drink or eating and drinking it, temperate though not completely abstinent. 2. Spartan, stingy, sparse, or sparing in general.
Notes: You must pronounce all four syllables in this word and all five in the noun, abstemiousness. The adverb abstemiously, like facetiously, is one of the few words in English with all 6 vowels appearing in alphabetical order.
In Play: This good adjective may refer to meals: "I prefer an abstemious breakfast and a hearty lunch since I eat the former at home." It may also indicate people who reduce their intake of certain foods, as many people today are abstemious in their intake of carbs. It doesn't mean that they abstain from them but just that they reduce how many they eat. Finally, the word may apply to the world at large: "Kirsten lives an abstemious life in an abstemious apartment with only basic, rudimentary furniture."
Word History: This Good Word comes from Latin abstemius, based on ab(s) "away from" + temum "liquor". The prefix ab(s)- comes from an earlier *apo-. Russian dropped the A, giving its preposition po "according to, around" while English dropped the O and, after the normal shift of [p] to [f], had the [af] in aft and after. The English preposition of came to us the same way. The Latin word temum "liquor" comes from an underlying root meaning "darkness, fog" found also in Sanskrit tamas "darkness," Russian t'ma "darkness," tuman "fog," and ten' "shadow."
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