Printable Version
Pronunciation: ko-têr-mê-nês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Sharing a common border, contiguous, back-to-back, as "The USA and Canada are coterminous." 2. Sharing all boundaries, coextensive in range, scope, or time, e.g. "Love and pity are not coterminous".

Notes: Today's Good Word is a misconception of conterminous, the preferred spelling and pronunciation. Conterminous predates both coterminous and its synonym, conterminal, by two centuries. The adverb is coterminously and the noun, coterminousness.

In Play: In the first sense of today's word, we might hear something like this: "Siddie Hall served a year on the county board representing a district coterminous with hers." The second sense of this word is comfortable in expressions like this: "The corruption in his district was coterminous with Jerry Mander's terms in office."

Word History: Today's Good Word comprises co(n)- "(together) with" + termin(us) "end point" + -ous, an adjective suffix. Terminus was taken whole from Latin where it meant "endpoint, limit, boundary" which Latin created from ter- "peg, pose, marker" + men- "To stay, remain". Ter- underlies Sanskrit tarati "surpasses", Greek termon "limit, boundary", Latin termen "boundary", Armenian t'arm "endpoint", Irish droim "back", and Welsh trum "ridge". We find the remains of men- in Sanskrit man- "hesitate, remain", Latin manere "to remain", Greek menein "to remain", and Welsh amynedd "patience". (Now a thoughtful bow in gratitude to Anna Jung for proposing today's rather confusing Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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