Word: deleterious

Pronunciation: de-lə-TI-ree-əs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: causing harm or damage

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s a word I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. Though I don’t remember where I first learned it, I was recently reminded of it while playing the Pronunciation game in the Elevate – Brain Training app. To be honest, I kind of wish I’d added this adjective to my shortlist of fiction vocabulary sooner; when “harmful” and “damaging” start to become overused, “deleterious” is a good synonym to turn to!

To be “deleterious” is to cause damage or harm. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the Greek adjective dēlētḗrios, meaning “noxious”. This adjective derives from the noun dēlētḗr “destroyer”, which in turn stems from the verb dēléomai “to hurt”.

An easy way to memorize the definition of “deleterious” is to remember that it contains the word “delete”, which means “remove or obliterate”. Notably, Merriam-Webster expands the word’s definition to “harmful, often in a subtle or unexpected way”, so you may want to limit its use to this specific context in your stories. If your characters often harm others or cause damage, “deleterious” may be a good addition to your vocabulary list!

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

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