Word of the Day : September 14, 2013


noun val-uh-too-duh-NAIR-ee-un


: a person of a weak or sickly constitution; especially : one whose chief concern is his or her ill health


"Einstein freely indulged his appetite for heavy German cooking; Gödel subsisted on a valetudinarian's diet of butter, baby food, and laxatives." - From an article by Jim Holt in The New Yorker, February 28, 2005

"America is not a hospice for a nation of valetudinarians, but a launching pad for those with the grit to roll up their sleeves, spit on their hands and hitch their wagon to the nearest star." - From an article by Phil Guarnieri in the Floral Park Dispatch (New York), May 11, 2012

Did You Know?

Oddly enough, "valetudinarian," a word for someone who is sickly (or at least thinks he or she is) comes from "valēre," a Latin word that means "to be strong" or "to be well." Most of the English offspring of "valēre" imply having some kind of strength or force-consider, for instance, "valiant," "prevail," "valor," and "value." But the Latin "valēre" also gave rise to "valetudo." In Latin, "valetudo" refers to one's state of health (whether good or bad), but by the time that root had given rise to "valetudinarian" in the early 1700s, English-speaking pessimists had given it a decidedly sickly spin.

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