What does the word ‘exiguous’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: exiguous…

I didn’t enjoy the plot of the novel Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk. But I found her writing remarkable. You can see some examples of her superb figurative language here.

But Saving Agnes, which I read in the Fall of 2015, gave me another unexpected gift: my word of the week, exiguous. Here is how Cusk used it:

A minute later her brother stood on the doorstep. He looked too big for it. Tom had always had the dubious ability to make his surroundings appear exiguous and rather shoddy.

The adjective means “scanty, small, diminutive,” and — as you might have guessed — originates from Latin. The root word is exiguous, meaning  “small, short; petty, paltry, poor, mean; scanty in measure or number; strict.” This, in turn, comes from exigere,  meaning “to measure against a standard.”

Other derived terms include:

  • exiguate
  • exiguity
  • exiguously
  • exiguousness
  • unexiguous