One of the elements of the honors English class I teach is a vocabulary program we refer to as Wordly Wise (the name of the book we use). Although the word “toady” does not appear as one of my students’ words to study, it does appear as an answer choice on a section of one of their quizzes–and they never know what it means. To be quite honest, when the first student ever to ask me about it raised her hand a few years ago, I wasn’t familiar with it either, and had to look it up. While I am more than familiar with the word now, and very accustomed to explaining its meaning to puzzled students each and every semester, I have yet to really use it in my own writing or daily conversation, though I often use many of its more commonly heard synonyms. Featuring it as this week’s Word of the Week is my effort to employ it more often, as well.
While “toady,” at least to me, seems as though it should function as an adjective, it is in fact a noun and a verb. When used as a noun, “toady” is synonymous with words like “sycophant,” “flatterer,” and “doormat.” In other words, a toady is a brownnoser. When used as a verb, “to toady” means to grovel, flatter, or suck up.
According to Merriam-Webster, you shouldn’t feel but so foolish if, before this post, you weren’t familiar with the word “toady;” it falls in the bottom 50% of word popularity. One of its synonyms–the one, in fact that my students must pair with “toady,” “sycophant,” is in the bottom 40%–but the top 1% of look-ups. And, just for fun, let’s throwback to last week: “perse” is in the bottom 30% of word popularity.
What does all that mean? Well, it means, of course, that by adding these words to your vocabulary, you are securing your place at the top of the linguistic-ability ladder. And you are empowered to write and speak more precisely.