Monday, February 08, 2010


Cacoethes  (noun)Pronunciation:  [kak-oh-'ee-theez]

Definition: Compulsion, mania.Usage: When it first appears in many dictionaries, the word cacoethes is defined as "a bad custom or habit." Though it is relatively uncommon, the word has been around in English since at least the mid-1600s, with meanings ranging from compulsion or irresistible urge to a persistent or incurable ulcer of the stomach.

Cacoethes is perhaps best defined today as a "mania," almost an unhealthy obsession to act in a certain (often socially unacceptable) way. Less commonly, it may be used as a synonym for an overwhelming passion.

Suggested Usage: "I've got the need… for speed!" a friend will say as he revs up his car and speeds down the highway. You might want to explain to him that driving so fast is dangerous and against the law; therefore, his need is perhaps a cacoethes.

If a compulsion to do something is without regard for the rules of safety or acceptability, chances are it may be described as a cacoethes, which is a very funny-sounding way of explaining to someone that they really, really need help.Etymology: It is relatively obvious that cacoethes, a word which originally meant "an itch for doing something," was originally a Greek term. Our spelling and usage comes from the Latin form of the Greek word kakoethes, a bad or sick habit. It is further derived from the Greek terms kakos, meaning bad, and ethe, character or disposition.
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