Printable Version
Pronunciation: kê-le-rik (US), kah-lêr-ik (UK) Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Hot-tempered, peevish, ill-tempered, bilious.

Notes: Choleric is not taken from the name of the disease, cholera, but from the noun choler "irritability, biliousness". Choler is the emotion that the ancients associated with the humor yellow bile, the season of summer (dry and hot), and the element fire. Hot-headedness and irascibility seemed a natural fit among these associations. Colic is an adaptation of today's Good Word referring to an infant condition that seems to make the baby ill-tempered and peevish. The adverb for today's word is cholerically; cholericly is obsolete, even though the latter is the pronunciation of the former.

In Play: If you are tired of hearing and saying grumpy and would like to elevate the tone of your conversation, today's Good Word is perfect for you: "I guess the diet isn't working for Les Waite; I got a choleric reply when I asked him about it." If you are like me and never like the new use of ballistic, why not substitute today's Good Word for it? "Donny Brooke was out of humor when he came in this morning, but when he saw the stack of work on his desk, he went choleric."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Latin cholera "jaundice", borrowed from Greek khole "bile". The ancients distinguished between yellow bile and black bile, the latter apparently imaginary. Yellow bile, however, is that bile secreted by the liver. Its Greek name comes from the same original Proto-Indo-European root (ghel- "to shine") that produced English yellow and gold. In German today it is gelb "yellow". Most English words containing GL and referring to light contain a reduction of the same root: gleam, glimmer, glitter, glow, and the like. Latin galbinus "yellowish" comes from the same root. It hardly changed in Romanian galben, but became jaunice in Old French. English borrowed the French word, reshaping it into jaundice, the yellowness of the skin when hepatitis disturbs the yellow bile of the liver.

Dr. Goodword,

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