Printable Version
Pronunciation: cah-stiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Archaic) Causing or suffering from constipation. 2. Slow, sluggish, lethargic, hesitant, reluctant. 3. Stingy, miserly, penurious, penny-pinching.

Notes: Here is a word with another completely unrelated word (cost) "hiding" in plain view inside it. It comes with the usual adverb, costively, and noun, costiveness.

In Play: The original sense of today's word is seldom used these days. It is most often in senses 2 and 3: "Senator Leighton Early, who was usually effusive in conversation about himself, suddenly became costive about his financial dealings." It is a substitute for stingy: "His costive nature made Justin Thyme reluctant to make contributions to even the most altruistic fund campaigns."

Word History: This word was taken from Old French costivé "constipated", the constipated French reduction of Latin constipatus "constipated" from constipare "to pack, cram, squush together ". This word is made up of con- "(together) with" + stipare "to compress, press, pack". Stipare came from PIE steip-/stip- "stiff", also origin of English stiff and German steif "stiff". The same PIE word produced Armenian stipem "to press, force", Greek stion "pebble", English stone and German Stein "stone". Lithuanian stiprus "strong" and Latvian stiept "strain" also seem to have come from the same PIE word. The sense of costive seems to have migrated in the order of the meanings listed above. (Let's all give a generous ovation to George Kovac, a man of a most uncostive vocabulary, for recommending we explore today's surprising Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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