Word of the Day

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

indemnity

[ in-dem-ni-tee ]

noun

compensation for damage or loss sustained.

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What is the origin of indemnity?

Indemnity comes from Middle French indemnité, from Late Latin indemnitās (inflectional stem indemnitāt-) “security from financial loss.”  Indemnitās is first recorded in the writings of the Imperial Roman jurists Sextus Pomponius and Ulpian. The root word of indemnitās is the noun damnum “financial loss, deprivation of possessions or property, a sum to be paid in restitution.” Damnum comes from an unrecorded dapnom, a noun derivative of the extended root dap-, from the Proto-Indo-European root – “to apportion in exchange.” The same root yields Latin daps “sacrificial meal, banquet,” Old Norse tafn “sacrificial animal, meal” (also from dapnom), Greek dapánē “cost, expenditure” and dáptein “to devour, consume,” Sanskrit dāpayate “he divides,” and Armenian tawn “feast” (from dapni-). Indemnity entered English in the 15th century.

how is indemnity used?

I promise you indemnity for your loss, and an apology that shall, I trust, satisfy your feelings ….

George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 1859

On his arrival, as an indemnity for alleged insults offered to the flag of his country, he demanded some twenty or thirty thousand dollars to be placed in his hands forthwith ….

Herman Melville, Typee, 1846

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Monday, May 18, 2020

weal

[ weel ]

noun

well-being, prosperity, or happiness: the public weal; weal and woe.

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What is the origin of weal?

The history of weal is complicated and confusing. The Middle English spellings include wele, wel(le), weil(e), weal(le) “worldly wealth, riches; possessions, goods; prosperity, good fortune; well-being, welfare; happiness, joy.” These exuberant Middle English spellings come from Old English wela, weola, weala “wealth, riches; prosperity.” The English meanings have always been influenced by the related adverb wellwel, wel(l)e in Middle English, and wel, weol, woel in Old English—which in general signifies successful accomplishment of the action of the verb. Weal entered English before 900.

how is weal used?

They did not consider a commitment to the public good, the common weal, to be at odds with the desire for prosperity.

Jill Lepore, These Truths, 2018

I will not arise from this spot, O valorous and redoubtable knight, until your benevolence and courtesy vouchsafe me a boon that will redound to the honor and glory of your person and to the weal of the most disconsolate and aggrieved damsel that ever the sun beheld.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

dishabille

[ dis-uh-beel, -bee ]

noun

the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner; undress.

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What is the origin of dishabille?

Dishabille or deshabille “the state of being dressed in a careless, disheveled, or disorderly style or manner,” comes from French déshabillé, the noun use of the past participle of the verb déshabiller “to undress.” The French prefix dés– is a regular development of the Latin prefix dis-, which often has, as here, a reversing force (like un– in the English pair tie and untie). The French verb habiller “to dress,” originally “to trim and smooth (a log for working), to arrange, prepare,” comes from Vulgar Latin adbilāre, abbilāre, a derivative of bilia “log, tree trunk” (originally a Gaulish word). The h– in habiller comes from the French noun habit “clothing” (from Latin habitus “physical condition, appearance, dress”). Dishabille entered English in the 17th century.

how is dishabille used?

It is daylight; is, then, the carriage to open and the empress to alight with one slipper on her feet, to be triumphantly conducted into the house? Ah, my friend, all Europe would smile at the idyllic empress who accompanied her husband on his journey in such a dishabille.

Luise Mühlbach (1814–1873), Napoleon and the Queen of Prussia, translated by F. Jordan, 1906

Yes, there are town houses, and yes, many prominent people hold the deeds to them because they don’t want to be seen in dishabille scooping up the morning paper ….

Joanne Kaufman, "Stargazing in the Elevator," New York Times, November 2, 2012

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