The word of the day is… well… I just can say it.

An alert reader sent me a notice that the Merriam-Webster word of the day is… well…

Word of the Day
December 4
\in-EFF-uh-bul\   Audio Pronunciation
Play Podcast
     1 *a : incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable b : unspeakable
     2 : not to be uttered : taboo
Example Sentence
     Ed felt an ineffable joy at the sight of his son walking toward him from the plane.

   See a map of "ineffable" in the Visual Thesaurus.   

Did you know?

     "Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness," wrote Frederick Douglass in his autobiography. Reading Douglass’s words, it’s easy to see that "ineffable" means "indescribable" or "unspeakable." And when we break down the word to its Latin roots, it’s easy to see how those meanings came about. "Ineffable" comes from "ineffabilis," which joins the prefix "in-," meaning "not," with the adjective "effabilis," meaning "capable of being expressed." "Effabilis" comes from "effari" ("to speak out"), which in turn comes from "ex-" and "fari" ("to speak").
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.

So the guy in the little podcast’s Latin isn’t so great.  Maybe he should have left "ineffabilis" unspoken?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TNCath says:

    What about “gibbet,” Father? This was another one of those words that was just “toooooo haaaard” for the average Catholic to understand and got the axe from the bishops. Perhaps people were getting it mixed up with the word “giblet” as in “giblet gravy,” a popular Thanksgiving garnish, the taste of which, when put on turkey and dressing, is ineffable!

  2. Michael says:

    I actually just checked my mail before I came here this morning, and thought you would find it interesting. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks word of the day e-mails are kinda cool.

  3. EJ says:

    I was also going to suggest “gibbet” as your next choice for the word of the day, but we must remember that this was discarded by the USCCB at last month’s meeting! I forget which word was chosen in its place, but we can be sure that they had Joe and Mary Catholic and the rest of us merry people in the pews in mind, cuz we all be so thick n’ slow!

  4. Ryan says:

    “Ineffable” was also used in the Office of Readings today in the second reading for St. John Damascene. How did that slip in there?

  5. Andreas says:

    And a similar, related, word is …


    – from Latin “in-fans” or “not (yet) speaking”.

  6. Brian says:

    I wich you consrvitivs wuld stop showin of with yur big shot words frum the oldn days.

    Wake up fokes! Its the twuntyith centry!

    Blow up sum balunes, eat sum bred liek the aposels did, crank up the toons, pat sum bacs, and prase the peapul uf the lord.

  7. A Random Friar says:

    It just struck me: for His Excellency Bishop Trautman, the second definition is quite apropos: “not to be uttered : taboo”

  8. Martin says:

    Today, NPR was discussing the vampire legend and the reporter mentioned the “ineffable mystery” of Dracula

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