Meliorism Is My Word for 2021

I discovered “meliorism” via Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day podcast. It’s a word that I think we need right now as we enter the second half of what may well be a full pandemic year.

Meliorism (MEE-lee-uh-riz-um) is the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment.

It is not pessimism and not optimism but some place in between though closer to the optimistic side.

“An old truism holds that the pessimist sees the glass as half-empty while the optimist sees it as half-full. But active and engaged people don’t bother to measure the contents of their cups. They savor what they’ve got, drink it down, then go looking for a refill. One name for this approach is meliorism. Meliorists want to make things better—to ameliorate them.”   — Andrew Fiala, The Fresno Bee, 10 Nov. 2017

Somehow I missed this word, though it’s not new. British novelist George Eliot believed she had coined meliorist back in 1877 when she wrote, “I don’t know that I ever heard anybody use the word ‘meliorist’ except myself.” But the podcast said that there is evidence that meliorist had been around decades before Ms. Eliot used it.

It probably comes from the Latin melior, meaning “better” with a nod the English melior descendant, meliorate, a synonym of ameliorate which means “to make better or more tolerable” which was introduced to English in the 1500s.

Meliorism is a word for 2021 when I would love to believe that the world will improve and that we can aid its betterment.

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Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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