Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-nail , ay-nail Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Old-womanish, like a crone, feeble from age or feeble-minded: the feminine counterpart of senile, which originally referred only to old men. 2. Fearful and overly cautious.

Notes: Look out for another curve word of the worst sort. Although today's Good Word represents an excellent decorative touch to the right conversation, much more specific than "senior" or "elderly" woman, be careful of its pronunciation and spelling. We dare not confuse it with anal. The adverb for this adjective is anilely and the noun, anility "the weakness or feebleness of an old woman".

In Play: Though anile may refer to mental as well as physical debility, it more often refers to the physical: "I see nothing anile in Aunty Bellam's gait; she gallivants around town as agile as she was twenty years ago." Today's word can, however, refer to the attitudes that accompany aging in women: "Don't act so anile, grandma; climb on up to our tree house."

Word History: This word was taken from the French version of Latin anilis "old womanly", an adjective built on anus "ring, ring-like object; old woman". This noun is also the source of the English word annular "circular, ring-like". Where the noun anus itself came from is something of a mystery. Its ancestor made it to Armenian as anur "ring, necklace" and to Old Irish as ainne, with the same meaning that the Latin word has today in English. Other than in these three languages, we find no evidence of it. How the sense of this word wandered from "ring" to "woman" apparently has something to do with marriage rather than the word's other meaning. (We now bow to Cynthia Graae, who most certainly is not lexically anile, for suggesting today's rare gem of a Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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