Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahn-stêr-nay-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: Agitated confusion caused by great alarm, surprise, or amazement.

Notes: Since the late 18th century this word's frequency has steadily declined from 10 per million words to 1 per million words today. It is the noun from the even more rarely used verb consternate "to agitate with dismay". The adjective is consternated "agitated by dismay or amazement."

In Play: We find consternation in obvious places: "Gladys Friday's promotion to manager created much consternation in the office." We also find it in unexpected places: "In the middle of the fraternity high jinks, an expression of consternation spread across the face of Dewey Hyde when he suddenly made out the face of his mother amidst the crowd of onlookers."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed, as usual, from French, which inherited it from Latin consternatio(n) "confusion, dismay", the noun from consternare "to confound, alarm, dismay". The Latin verb comprises com- "(together) with" + sternare "to spread, extend, strew". Latin built sternare from PIE ster-/stor- "to spread, scatter", source also of Sanskrit starati "scatters, strews", Serbian strah "fear", German Stroh "straw" and streuen "to strew, sprinkle, scatter", Icelandic strá "straw", English straw, strand, and strew, Russian strana "country" and storona "side". (Today's exceptional Good Word started out as a gift of a grandmaster of word suggestions by William Hupy in 2017.)

Dr. Goodword,

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