• adulterate •
ê-dêl-têr-rayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To reduce strength or purity by adding inferior ingredients.
Notes: No, this word doesn't mean "to make adult". If you adulterate writing, in fact, you make the reading of it less adult. Today's Good Word at best marginally related to adult (see Word History), even children can adulterate things. The nouns are adulteration and adulterator. The past participle may be used as an adjective, often negated: unadulterated, as in 'the unadulterated truth'.
In Play: Today's Good Word refers to the replacement of something by something else of less quality, as to water down drinks: "I don't frequent that pub because I suspect the bartenders of adulterating the whiskey." But then it may include reducing the strength or purity of anything: "Don't adulterate your words; say what you really think."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from adulteratus, the past participle of Latin adulterare "to pollute, corrupt (a woman)". This verb combines ad "to" + alterare "change". The stem of this word was alter "the other (of two)". We find it in the Latinate borrowing alternative. Alter comes from a PIE derivation al- "besides; other' + -ter (as in other). We find al- in Latin alius "other", Greek allos "other, strange", and English else. Adult, on the other hand, is taken from the Latin word, adultus "having grown up, mature", the past participle of adolescere "grow up, mature". The present participle of this word, adolescen(t)s "growing up, maturing", was borrowed into English as adolescent.
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