Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Word of the Day
Sultry (adjective)
Pronunciation: ['sêl-tri]
Definition: (1) Oppressively hot and humid, sweltering, steamy; (2) oppressively hot and dry, as a sultry summer sun; (3) voluptuous and mysterious, arousing lust (when associated with a woman).
Usage: The verb "to sulter" has long since been elbowed out of English by "swelter," but the noun "sultriness" and adverb "sultrily" still beg us to use them. On the other hand, "swelter" has lost its adjective ("sweltry"), so the two roots have united to form a complete family: the verb is "swelter," the participle, "sweltering," but the adjective, with its noun and adverb, is "sultry."
Suggested Usage: Sultry days spend most of their time in the tropics: "Malcolm learned to enjoy the sultry evenings in Phuket, eating spicy fish and sipping the cool milk of fresh coconuts by the sea." Today's word has made its way from the weather to women due to our association of heat with sensuality. The actresses Lauren Bacall and Marlene Dietrich often played sultry women in the movies. Today we have an embarrassment of actresses who can assume sultriness at the drop of a script, "Sharon Stone played a sultry novelist out to seduce a cop in the movie Basic Instinct."
Etymology: There once were two variants of the verb meaning "to faint (or die) from oppressive heat": sulter and swelter. Each had its own adjective, "sultry" and "sweltry." Both may have come from an Old Germanic stem (*swulter?) lost in the clouds of time. Before vowels [u] tends to become [w] (e.g. "suede," "suave")—in fact, the name of the letter, double u, suggests their intimate relation. –Dr. Language,

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