Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahn-tê-may-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Flagrantly disobedient, stubbornly, willfully resistant, rebellious.

Notes: Today's word is actually built out of the noun contumacy "perverse obstinacy", a much better noun than its long and boring synonym, contumaciousness. Unfortunately, there is no way around the adverb, contumaciously, which will keep listeners waiting almost as long.

In Play: Take today's Good Word with you to work: "Bringing any change to this company while those contumacious old fogies are sitting on the Board is simply impossible." This doesn't mean that there are no household uses for it: "Getting three contumacious kids to clean up their rooms would try the powers of a saint—and I'm no saint!"

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English makeover of Latin contumax "arrogant, obstinate". As in English, the X is a writing conceit hiding two letters (CS, pronounced [ks]), so the real stem of this word is contumac-. This Latin word is made up of con "(together) with" + tumere "to swell", as with pride. The root is also found in tumor, tumescent and, possibly, tumultus, which English borrowed as tumult. The same root came through the ancient Germanic languages to English as thumb and as the name of the thumb hat, thimble. (Without a trace of contumacity we would like to thank Anthoni Mayoto for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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