Hiya, Word Nerds! So glad you popped by today. Many of you may be aware that 31 October 2017 marks 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Each evening this month, our family has listened to a short podcast on a hero (or heroine) of the Protestant Reformation from the series Here We Stand, produced by Desiring God.
A couple of nights ago, the featured hero was Scottish reformer John Knox. The podcast began:
In the early 1500s, Scotland had one thing in common with the rest of Europe: a deeply corrupt and spiritually impoverished church, with morally moribund leadership.
(In case you’re thinking that might be overstating things, the article then cited the example of a cardinal who illegitimately fathered—and claimed—at least fourteen children, and mentioned that some priests thought the New Testament was a book recently published by Martin Luther!)
That phrase ‘morally moribund leadership’ grabbed my attention. I think I even commented at the time on what a great word moribund was. Thankfully, none of my kids followed up by asking ‘What does moribund mean?’ because as soon as I said it, I realized I didn’t really know! But it sounds good, doesn’t it?
Anyway, if you know me at all, you’ll know a Word Nerd Wednesday post was the next logical step! So, here’s the definition according to the Oxford Dictionary:
1. (of a person) at the point of death;
2. (of a thing) in terminal decline; lacking vitality or vigour
It comes directly from the latin word moribundus, meaning dying, or at the point of death.
Notwithstanding its meaning, isn’t it a delicious word? It’s what I call a ‘golden adjective’—one that packs exceptional value into a small amount of space. Think of the wealth of emotion and imagery that can be conveyed in a small phrase like ‘moribund enthusiasm’ or ‘moribund light’.
I think you could safely say my enthusiasm for the word moribund is quite the opposite at the moment! Hmm . . . now what would be a good word to describe that? . . .