What does recrudescence mean?

Word count: 272 words

Reading time: Just over 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: recrudescence.

In 2010,  I read the marvellous novel Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It won the Pulitzer in 2009 and I found it interesting, sophisticated and deeply layered. When I heard Strout had published another novel I was willing to buy it in hardcover, something I almost never do.

Sadly, the novel The Burgess Boys doesn’t live up to its predecessor. Which isn’t to say it’s bad. The story of two brothers who survived a childhood trauma (the death of their father, as a result of one of their own actions) was very readable. It just wasn’t as wonderful or nearly as subtle as Olive Kitteridge.

That said, the book did give me my word of the week: recrudescence. Here’s how Strout used it:

He knew only that he stood there feeling very bad, when before he had felt hopeful at the excitement of Margaret Estaver, glad for what she was doing and what she felt herself, and now that ancient recrudescence of dreariness arrived, disgust at his big, slob-dog, incontinent self, the opposite of Jim.

When I saw that noun, I immediately thought of “crud” — a substance that is disgusting or unpleasant, typically because of its dirtiness. Instead, it turns out, recrudescence is a scientific term. It means to grow raw again, or to get worse. In terms of etymology the origin of the word is Latin. It comes from recrudescere meaning “re-opening”. Crudescere, from crudus means “raw.”

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