Obsequious: (adj.) 1. characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning: an obsequious bow. 2. servilely compliant or deferential: obsequious servants. 3. obedient; dutiful.
We all know that guy: the guy who always has a compliment ready for the boss on Monday morning; the guy who always seems to weasel his way out of a speeding ticket when he gets pulled over; the teacher’s pet who always ratted you out in elementary school. All these years you’ve wondered what word you could use to perfectly capture his essence (all right, maybe you already have a few choice words for him), but now your search is at an end – this guy is definitely obsequious.
Today, obsequious means servile and sycophantic, but it didn’t always have such a negative connotation. It is derived from the Latin word obsequiosus, which simply means dutiful, obedient, and compliant. When obsequious entered the English language in the 1400s, an admittedly more hierarchical time than our own, it meant the same thing, and perhaps even carried a positive connotation. This did not last long, though; by the 1490s this word had already started doing laps on the euphemism treadmill and had come to have the pejorative connotation it retains to this day.
Oily Otto’s obsequious odes on obmutescence of objectionable orators openly opposed ornery Odile’s opprobrium over our obnoxious orange orangutan overlords’ onerous orders: obey Orwellian Organizations of Oceanic Otters or offer only orthodox opinions on ostracizing outsider ocelots.