In a Word: Otiose

December 20, 2010

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment on his blog, You Don't say, and the best sentence will be featured next week. This week's word:


A thing serving no practical purpose — a useless, futile, ineffective thing — is said to be otiose. The word, pronounced OH-shee-ohs or OT-ee-ohs, comes from the Latin otiosus, or idle, and ultimately from the Latin otium, leisure.

Example: If you would avoid incurring odium at work, make sure that your masters don't view your efforts as otiose.

Last week's word: Eleemosynary prompted ddfairchild, a regular reader of this feature, to observe, "The eleemosynary impulse of the average taxpayer varies based on the proximity of December 31st."

And over at the blog, Jim Callahan wrote:

"I love eleemosynary — once I figured out what it meant.

"I couldn't wait to drop that sucker into the planning and zoning stories of my misspent youth as a reporter.

"Those darn copy editors kept on changing it, and sometimes would even whack direct quotes with the word in it.

"One guy even accused me of asking my questions in such a way that the lawyer answering had to use the word.

"The nerve!"

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