Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-lê-men-têr-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Concerning food, nutrition, or digestion. 2. Providing nourishment or sustenance.

Notes: This word is most often used in the phrases 'alimentary canal' or 'alimentary tract', referring to the gullet. It has several less often used synonyms, alimental, alimentive, and alimentarious. Alimentation "process of being nourished; provision of a means of living" implies a verb alimentate, but it doesn't seem to exist.

In Play: As already mentioned, alimentary is most often used in reference to the gullet: "Jeremiah could feel the 'meal' he had just eaten squirm its alimentary way back up from his stomach." Now, imagine the following conversation between Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler, Dr. Watson:
   Watson: "Holmes, please tell me why you eat so much?"
  Holmes: "Alimentary, my dear Watson; I want to ensure that my body has all the nutrients it needs."

Word History: English, as usual, took this word from French alimentaire without paying. French inherited it from Latin alimentarius "related to food", the adjective for alimentum "food, nourishment", the noun from alere "to nourish, feed, grow; support, maintain". Latin built its word on PIE al- "to grow, feed, birth" + -mentum, a deverbal noun-forming suffix . We find al- in Sanskrit arati "caretaker" (all Ls became Rs in Sanskrit), Greek alma "grove", Welsh alu "to birth", Latin altus "high", English old, German alt "old", and Dutch oud "old". Latin almus "nourishing", with its feminine alma as in 'alma mater' "nourishing mother", is another offspring of the PIE word. (Now, let's give an e-bow to wordmaster William Hupy for setting Dr. Goodword off on yet another enlightening journey into today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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