What does otiose mean?

Word count: 213 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

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: otiose.

Some words make me eager to learn what they mean. Otiose falls into that category. I discovered it in the book Straphanger by Taras Grescoe and here is the sentence in which it appeared.

With their wheels suspended in the air, the immobile Lexuses and Mercedes look faintly ridiculous — like relics of primitive urbanity, on display in some future museum of otiose technology. 

I couldn’t tell what it meant from the context, so I had to look it up in the dictionary. It’s an adjective meaning “serving no practical purpose or result.” It can also refer to something (or someone) who is indolent or idle. I like the sound of the word which strikes me as full and profligate. The plethora of vowels is also interesting.

The root of the word dates back to the late 15th century when otiosity was used as a noun. In 1794, the Latin word,  otiosus meant “having leisure or ease, unoccupied, idle, not busy.” A similar word of the same meaning could be found in French, oiseux, and in Spanish, as well, ocioso.


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