What does ‘feculent’ mean?

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: feculent….

I picked up the novel Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts, in a bookstore and read the first three pages. It engaged me enough to persuade me to get a copy for my Kindle in time for a vacation involving a very long plane ride.

The book tells the fictional story of the widow of Frank Baum — author of the Wizard of Oz — working with Judy Garland as she was making the MGM musical. It had a pretty good plot, although I found the writing a little bit flat. Still, Letts gave me my word of the week, feculent. Here is how she used it:

She had agreed to come to this teeming, feculent city, but if one of the children succumbed to the fever she would never forgive herself.

From context, I could tell the adjective was negative and it turns out it means: “of or containing dirt, sediment, or waste matter.” (Using this definition, I selected the photograph for the top of this post.)

Indeed, the word is related to feces! Middle French in origin, féculent, originally comes from Latin faeculentus meaning, “abounding in dregs.” The stem faec- means “sediment, dregs” (there’s that relationship to feces) and it is joined with the suffix -ulentus meaning “full of.”