Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-mee-lyêr-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: (Transitive) To make something bad better, to improve or mitigate as, 'to ameliorate conditions'; (intransitive) to become better, as 'conditions are ameliorating'.

Notes: Today's Good Word has a large and healthy derivational family. Whatever ameliorates is ameliorative and something that may be ameliorated is ameliorable. (Notice the omission of the verbal suffix -ate.) Someone who ameliorates is an ameliorator and the process is amelioration.

In Play: An improvement in any bad state qualifies for today's word: "You could ameliorate the poor condition of your houseplants if you watered them more often." The antonym of this word is aggravation: "I find that the computer ameliorates some of my problems and aggravates others."

Word History: Since the middle of the 16th century this word was spelled and pronounced simply meliorate, a spelling which remains with us until today. In the 18th century the initial A was added under the influence of French améliorer "to improve, mitigate", based on meilleur "better", the comparative of bon "good". The original meliorate was copied and adapted by English from the past participle, melioratus, of Latin meliorare "to better" from melior "better", the comparative of bonus. This word was built on the PIE root mel- "great, strong" which also went into the making of Latin multus "much", that underlies the English combining form multi- "many", as in multigrain and multivitamin, Italian molto "much", and Spanish mucho "much". (We are mucho grateful that our old friend William Hupy recommended today's very ameliorative Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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