Printable Version
Pronunciation: yu-têl, yu-tail Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Useful.

Notes: Here is an adjective which has almost gone out of use itself, while the noun derived from it, utility, is commonplace. The verb from this word is utilize "to make useful" and someone who carries out this action is a utilizer. Someone who believes that usefulness is the standard for whatever is good is known as a utilitarian.

In Play: Since useful replaced utile in the English vocabulary, anywhere you may use the one word, the other may be used: "Hermione thought marrying Monty Carlo would be a utile move toward her ambition to acquire wealth." Anywhere: "I don't see how your idea that the company produce computerized walking canes could be at all utile at this point."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French, which had inherited it from Latin utilis "useful, practical, expedient", an adjective derived from the verb uti "to use". Its past participle, usus, was also the ultimate source, via French, of use. It was common until the 16th century, when it was replaced by useful, first used by Shakespeare in "King John" (1594). We do not know how uti got into Latin; however, we do know that use replaced Old English brucan "to use, take advantage of" (([to] brook today) in the 14th century and we do know where this word came from: PIE bhrug- "fruit; enjoy, use", source also of English fruit, Latin frugi "useful, fruitful, proper" and frux, frugis "fruit", Dutch gebruiken "to use", and German brauchen "to need". The semantic connection between "fruit" and "use" could have been via the concept of "fruitfulness". (Now let's all give a grateful nod to Professor Kyu Ho Youm, Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon, for suggesting today's almost long-lost Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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