Word: negate

Pronunciation: nə-GAYT

Part of Speech: verb

Definition: nullify; make ineffective

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Monica: (on Richard’s answering machine) “Hi, it’s Monica. I’m just checking in ’cause I got this message from you and I didn’t know if it was old or new or what. So, I’m just checkin’. So let me know. Or don’t, whatever. I’m breezy.”

Joey: Hey, you can’t say you’re breezy! That totally negates the breezy!

– Friends (Season 3, Episode 2 – The One Where No One’s Ready)

Here’s an interesting verb that I’ve heard on my favorite TV series, Friends. After replying to a phone message from Richard, a nervous Monica accesses his answering machine and plays back her message for her friends to see what they think. Unfortunately, they make it clear to her that her message is not nearly as casual as she’d hoped; as Joey points out, by saying she’s breezy, she’s actually cancelled out the breeziness she was hoping to convey to her ex-boyfriend.

To “negate” something is to cancel it out, rendering it null and void. The word comes from the Latin verb negare, meaning “to deny” or “to refuse”. This verb is derived from the adverb nec “not” and the verb aiere “to say”.

Aside from its primary definition, “negate” can also mean “to deny the existence of something”. If you want to get into the technical part of language and grammar, the word also has the sub-definition “to make a clause, sentence or proposition negative in meaning”. I’m most accustomed to its first sense, though, so I would use it in my stories to indicate things that nullify each other. If you often find yourself writing an action that neutralizes the effects of another, “negate” is a good word to remember for your stories! Good luck!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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