Happy Wednesday, word nerds! Have you ever come across a word that sounds all wrong for its meaning? Today’s words is one of those for me. It came up no less than three times in a book I was reading recently, and I have to say, it kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. I’m pretty sure I’d never heard the word before, and being the good little word nerd that I am, I looked up its meaning:
effulgent – shining brightly; radiant; (of a person or expression) emanating joy or goodness
Now, is it just me, or does that word sound like it should mean almost the opposite of that? I feel like wrinkling my nose when I say it!
Perhaps it’s the similarity to the word effluent that throws me. I don’t know. Oddly enough, the word effluent doesn’t sound as repulsive to me as effulgent, despite knowing their definitions. Does anyone else think so?
The reason for the similarity in these words is their latin roots. The prefix ef– is the form taken by the prefix ex– when it precedes a word beginning with f (ex– meaning ‘out of’). Then you have the latin words fulgere (to shine) for effulgent, and fluere (to flow). Hence effulgent is ‘to shine out of’ and effluent is ‘to flow out of’—which leads me to another little piece of trivia: While our modern definition of the word effluent refers specifically to liquid industrial waste (or sewerage), its original meaning often referred to a stream branching out from a river or lake. It didn’t take on its modern meaning until the 1930s.
So there you have it. Is the sun particularly effulgent where you are today? Do you think effulgent sounds like it should mean ‘shining brightly’? Have you come across any other words that don’t seem to suit their meaning? Do share!