Printable Version
Pronunciation: kê-men-sê-rêt, kê-men-shê-rêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Of the same or equal measure (size, length, proportion) as something else, as to receive recognition commensurate with our accomplishments.

Notes: Although today's Good Word is often used as a synonym of commensurable, the latter has a slightly different meaning: "reducible to a common measure" or, in mathematics, "reducible by the same quantity without a remainder". A foot and a yard are commensurable since both may be reduced in terms of inches (12 and 36, respectively). These two words suggest an origin in a verb, commensurate "to correspond with in measure or extent". Well, if you don't mind using words that went out of style in the 17th century, you may use this verb with impunity.

In Play: Here is a word with wide-spread applications around the house: "I don't feel that one martini is a commensurate reward for spending the entire afternoon mowing the lawn—missing the football game, yet". Not that you can't find uses for it around the office, too: "In my opinion, the current team leader's managerial skills are not commensurate with the position she holds."

Word History: Today's Good Word goes back to Latin commensuratus "equal", made up of com- "with" + mensura "measure". Mensura is a noun built out of mensus "measured", the past participle of the verb metiri "to measure". The N that comes and goes in the forms of this word is the Fickle N of Indo-European languages that we have mentioned before. The N is present in the Latin word for mensis "month", an ancient measure of time based on the phases of the moon. In fact, the same word came to Germanic languages with that very meaning: English moon, Dutch maan, and German Mond. French dropped the N in mensure "measure" before English borrowed it as measure. (Our gratitude to Bryan Goff for suggesting today's Good Word is commensurate with its considerable importance to us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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