This Week’s Word: Ribald
/ˈrɪb əld/ [rib–uh ld]
Ribald describes particularly lewd speech or humor. Something that is ribald may be irreverent or vulgar to the point of being abusive.
Synonyms: indecent, obscene, scurrilous
Origin: While ribald is most often used as an adjective, it can also denote one who engages in licentious behavior; both uses of the word came into Middle English by way of the Old French ribaud/ribauld, from the Frankish riben, which literally means “to rub” but has various other meanings that you can probably guess. This is cognate of the Old High German riban, which also has some colorful connotations.
Sample 1: Mercutio’s ribald behavior was meant to amuse the groundlings, Shakespeare’s low-class audience members.
Sample 2: At first, Mrs. Fletcher thought Mr. Herring might have murdered his daughter-in-law, whose reputation for being anywhere from inappropriate to downright ribald at business meetings had cost his firm business on many occasions.
Ribald is part of your Test Masters SAT & PSAT Vocabulary list. Students have either been tested on this word during past SAT/PSAT exams, or it has a very high chance of appearing on an exam in the near future.
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