Word of the Week: Jocund

Word: jocund

Pronunciation: JAH-kənd / JOH-kənd

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: cheerful and lighthearted

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day / Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. / I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
– Romeo Montague, Romeo & Juliet (3.5.9–11)

Happy New Year! It’s the first day of 2018, so let’s start the year with one more joyful word! This one is a little more formal—okay, a lot more formal—than the last two I wrote about, but it still works as a synonym for “cheerful”. Even if you don’t normally use formal vocabulary, you may still get some use out of this word; where words like “mirth” and “ebullient” fall short, “jocund” may be a more interesting choice!

Anything or anyone described as “jocund” is lighthearted and cheerful. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective jocundus, meaning “pleasant”. This adjective, a variant of jucundus, was influenced by the noun jocus “joke” and stems from the verb juvare, which means “to delight”.

In case you’re wondering about the above excerpt from Romeo & Juliet, the word “jocund” is being used to create a literary contrast: although morning is typically a pleasant time of day, it brings tragedy to the star-crossed lovers because it means they have to separate. While it seems limited to formal contexts, I’d say the word works well to capture the lighthearted mood in a historical setting, while you may prefer a similar adjective like “jocular” for more modern writing. If your characters are the cheerful and spirited type (and you’ve overused every other adjective to describe them), “jocund” may be a good word to consider for your stories!

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

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