Word: indolent

Pronunciation: IN-də-lənt

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: wanting to avoid activity or exertion; lazy

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


…and as for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and play at cards…

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

Oh yes, I’m learning so many new words from Pride and Prejudice! Similar to last week’s entry, today’s Word of the Week comes from a description of one of the story’s supporting characters, this time Mr. Hurst. While dining with Bingley and company during her stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth finds herself seated next to Mr. Bingley’s brother-in-law, a gentleman so dull and lazy that his interests are limited to dining and playing cards. At one point in the story, when everyone else in the room is too preoccupied with books and conversation to play cards with him, he uses the time to take a nap on the sofa instead! Small wonder such an “indolent” character never made it into the films!

An “indolent” person is someone who likes to avoid activity, that is, who is inherently lazy. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the Latin noun indolentia, meaning “freedom from pain”. This noun is composed of the particle in “not” and the verb dolere “to suffer pain”.

The word “indolent” is primarily used to describe people, but it also serves a function in medical terminology as a definition for a disease condition that causes little or no pain. More specifically, it can also refer to a persistent ulcer that is “slow to develop, progress, or heal”. It shouldn’t be confused with the adjective “insolent”, which means “showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect”, though I suppose in certain cases a person can appear to be both. If you can find inspiration in people who are lazy to the point of actively avoiding activity or exertion, you may have room for some “indolent” characters in your stories!

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

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