Printable Version
Pronunciation: kyur-rayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. To select, organize, and manage a collection. 2. To judge, select the performers or other participants in an arts event or program. 3. (Noun [kyr-rit]) A cleric in charge of a parish, or who assists a rector or vicar.

Notes: Though a good curate could curate his flock, be careful to distinguish the verb curate from the noun. They are pronounced differently and have dramatically different meanings. The verb comes with a personal noun, curator, and an action noun, curation.

In Play: We usually associate curators with museums, but any collection may be curated: "Hedy Wein has a large cellar of vintages and she does an excellent job of curating them." In the electronic age we may expect an expansion of the use of this word: "Twitter curates top tweets, organized by subject, into collections it calls 'Moments'" (New York Times, November 11, 2015).

Word History: The verbal use of today's Good Word is a backformation from the personal noun curator. This word was borrowed in the middle of the 14th century straight from Latin curator "manager, overseer", the personal noun from curare "to take care of, look after". The Latin verb curare is unrelated to the name of the South American nerve poison. It came through French where its meaning slowly drifted to "treat medically" and on to "treat successfully", where the meaning was when English borrowed it from French. The nominal sense of curate came from Middle English curat, from Medieval Latin curatus, the past participle of curare, in the sense of someone who takes care of the spiritual well-being of others. (Today's gratitude is owed Norman Holler of Whitehorse, Alaska, a decent curator of Good Words such as the one he provided for today.)

Dr. Goodword,

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