Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-lek-sê-ter-rik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: No, this term doesn't mean "at a loss for words", but 1. antibiotic for infectious diseases or 2. alexipharmic for venom, antidotal for toxins or poisons.

Notes: Today's Good Word is an adjective that is probably used more often as a noun referring to substances than adjectivally. The adjectival sense may be specified by adding the suffix -al, alexiterical, which provides a base for the adverb, alexiterically. Some prefer to use the exact transliteration of the Greek source word, alexeteric.

In Play: Today, hundreds of medical research laboratories all over the world are in a frantic race to find an alexiteric for COVID (Sars-2-Cov). But folk alexiterics exist, too: "North Africans boil the fragmented rhizomes of the yellow flag, one of Morocco's favorite alexiterics, for rheumatism and sciatica." We can try it hyperbolically for substances that cure any kind of perceived poison: "Vitamin B2 complex was a well-known alexiteric for hangovers in the university where I was enrolled."

Word History: English borrowed today's word from French alexitirique, its rendition of Latin alexiterium "remedy", which Latin borrowed from Greek alexeterios "able to protect, defend". The Greek word is built upon alexein "to ward off, protect" which came from PIE aleq- "to strike back, return fire". Remnants of this word may be found in Sanskrit rakšati "guards, shields" and Greek epalxis "breastwork, battlement". Old Latvian had èlks and Old Lithuanian, elkas "holy grove", and Gothic had alhs "temple", but none of these words survived to the modern languages. (The mysterious Grogie, he of the most arcane vocabulary, suggested we cover today's Good Word, which the OED claims is now "mostly historical".)

Dr. Goodword,

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