Word of the Day : April 6, 2011

stultify

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verb STUL-tuh-fye

Definition

1 : to cause to appear or be stupid, foolish, or absurdly illogical

2 a : to impair, invalidate, or make ineffective : negate

b : to have a dulling or inhibiting effect on

Did You Know?

Stupid or absurd behavior can be almost laughable at times. That’s the kind of situation depicted in an 1871 London Daily News article, describing how a witness “stultified himself” by admitting that he was too far off to hear what he had claimed to have heard. But there is nothing especially funny about the now-archaic original usage of “stultify.” The word was first used in the mid-1700s in legal contexts, where if you stultified yourself, you claimed to be of unsound mind and thus not responsible for your acts. Nor is there humor in the most common meaning of “stultify" nowadays, that of rendering someone or something useless or ineffective.


Examples

Placing too many people in decision-making positions often has the effect of stultifying discussion and new ideas.

"Without continuing support for higher education, we will stultify our national progress and go down a vicious spiral of ever-diminishing returns." -- From a letter by Michael Pravica to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 6, 2011



Test Your Memory

What word completes this sentence from a recent Word of the Day piece: "A ___________ fog crept over the farm, concealing the outbuildings and the orchard and stranding the house in an inky ocean of darkness as the evening turned to night"? The answer is ...


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