Skip to content

Word Wisdom: Assuage

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

During these hot summer days, I like to assuage my thirst with a tall glass of cool water. We usually keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator for just such a purpose. It is also the time of year I like a cold beer after cutting the lawn.

In case you are wondering how to pronounce assuage correctly, it is ‘a – swaj.’ 

Originally assuage meant to lessen the intensity of something that pains or distresses, like the word ease. It has been used in the English language since the 1400s. The community was unable to assuage the grief of the family that lost their young daughter to the pandemic sweeping the area.

Assuage then began to acquire the attempt to pacify or quiet a crying baby. Next the meaning shifted to putting an end to something by satisfying it. Before I go golfing in the early morning, I put three squirts of lemon juice into my water bottle to assuage my thirst as I walk around the course. 

Assuage comes from the Latin word suavis meaning sweet. Middle English borrowed the word from the Anglo-French asuager meaning to soften, in the sense of sweetening pain, anger, or grief to make it more manageable. To assuage something such as fear, a distressing situation, or guilt is to lessen its intensity. It can apply to helping bitter tasting food be more palatable, as Mary Poppins sang, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Most cough medicines add sugars to assuage some of the bitterness, except for Buckley’s. Buckley’s philosophy is stated on their website. “In our complex and constantly changing world, consumers are looking for demystification and simple effectiveness in the things they buy, and the Buckley's product line offers just that. In today's market, where people are concerned about content and contraindications, Buckley's Mixture is non drowsy, alcohol-free, and sugar-free.” It seems that Buckley’s believes it is unnecessary to assuage taste buds as the mixture assuages cold symptoms.

Synonyms of assuage are relieve, alleviate, lighten, mitigate, and allay.

Relieve implies lifting enough of a burden to make it tolerable. When I get sore muscles, I often take Advil to relieve the pain and enable me to function somewhat normally.

Alleviate is a temporary or partial lessening of pain or distress. When I get a bug bite, I use a lotion that alleviates the itching.

Lighten implies reducing a burdensome or depressing weight. For those with mortgages, a lightening of monthly payments will only happen when interest rates go back down again. That would be some good news to lighten our worries.

Mitigate suggests a moderating or countering of the effect of something violent or painful. It might be nice to mitigate some of the regulations that limit the free market economy.

Allay implies an effective calming or soothing of fear or alarms. The doctor allayed his fear of the surgical procedure.

Assuage implies a softening or sweetening of what is harsh or disagreeable. A breeze can assuage the intense heat on a sweltering day.

There are many issues and situations that disrupt our lives. Life contains many sorrows that cannot be assuaged. We need to learn how to work our ways through many issues and not spend countless hours worrying about how to eliminate them. It is important to be honest in facing life in this world.

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks