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Pronunciation: kên-gru-ênt, kang-gru-ênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. In harmony, suitable, congruous, fitting well together. 2. (Geometry) Coinciding when superimposed, identical in form. 3. (Mathematics) Having a difference divisible by a modulus, a third number, e.g. 12 - 2 = 10, 10/2 = 5 (the modulus).

Notes: Today's word has a lexical mate, congruous, synonyms in their ordinary meanings, distinguished only by their uses. Congruent seems to be a favorite in the sciences, taking on specific meanings there. The noun for congruent is either congruence or congruency. The noun for congruous is congruity. The antonym of today's word is incongruent.

In Play: Congruence is always an issue in politics: "Americans tend to elect officials whose positions are not always congruent with Americans' self-interests." However, the relevance of congruence is not limited to politics: "Most of our dreams are incongruent with reality."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed by English from congruen(t)s "falling together, meeting", the present participle of congruere "to fall together, meet". Congruere is made up of con- "(together) with" + gruere "to fall". There is no trace of gruere in the sense of "fall" in the Latin written sources, but we are safe to conclude from congruere that it was there at some point in Roman history, just not recorded. It would have come from PIE ghreu- "fall down", source also of Lithuanian griauti "throw down, tear down, destroy", Serbo-Croatian grunuti "to explode, burst", and Polish gruchnąć "to fall down".

Dr. Goodword,

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