In a word: beatific

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:


Hallow is a verb meaning “to make holy,” and as a noun refers to sainthood. Today, Halloween, is All Hallows Eve, the eve of November 1, All Saints’ Day, when Christianity commemorates the heroes of the faith. (November 2 is All Souls’ Day, when all the faithful departed are remembered in prayer.)

The saints are those who have been beatified, “made blissfully happy” and “declared worthy of veneration.” They are beatific (pronounced bee-uh-TIF-ik), possessing beatitude, perfect blessedness.

Over time, beatific has taken on a purely secular sense, “having a blissful appearance.” In English you do not have to be holy to be happy.

Example: From David Barstow’s “Behind a Murder Suspect’s Cool Façade, Emotional Turmoil,” The New York Times, 12 February 2000: “Yet Mr. Melford affected an outward calm. His primary response to everyday setbacks was a beatific ‘Dude, it’s cool.’ ”

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