In a word: execrable

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: 


When we conclude that something is bad, not just inferior but very, very bad, we have a number of words at our disposal: lousy, terrible, horrible, dismal, detestable, atrocious. But if you really want to let fly, try execrable (pronounced EX-uh-kruh-bl).

The word comes to us from the Latin verb execrari, "to curse," and the English equivalent execrate, did originally, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mean to curse or to call down evil on. Today the verb has added the senses of "to loathe" or "to denounce scathingly," but it still carries some of that original charge.  

The adjective, execrable, can mean anything in the range of "inferior," "of poorest quality," to "abominable." 

Example: Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence contained a condemnation of George III for vetoing measures to halt the slave trade: "He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Markett where Men should be bought and sold. ..."

More recently, from a 2004 article in The Australian: "And what I like looking at in them is all those articles about movie stars -- and their execrable taste in clothes." 

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