• arrant •
Pronunciation: æ-rênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Complete, absolute, thoroughgoing, as an arrant knave. 2. (Obsolete) Wandering, vagrant, vagabond, as a knight arrant (better errant today).
Notes: Today's Good Word is a misspelling of errant that stuck. For years the two words meant the same. Recently, however, arrant has been used only in sense No. 1 above while errant has kept the original meaning, No. 2 above. Since it is so archaic, errant is often placed after the noun it modifies (French style): a knight errant or a pastor errant, who wanders from church to church. The adverb arrantly is used but no noun has offered itself as of yet.
In Play: You will probably want to use this word more often in its most recent sense: "Griswold, the arrant knave, embezzled money for years, planning to cruise the Caribbean in such arrant luxury as would put a Saudi sheik to shame." Although now archaic, errant is such a lovely romantic word, it is difficult to resist the temptation of using it: "I watched the sunset through shimmering tufts of her hair, tossed occasionally by an errant evening breeze."
Word History: Errant is the present participle of French errer, a verb with an odd set of meanings: (1) "to err, make a mistake" and (2) "to roam, stray. These two discrete meanings are the result of two entirely different Latin verbs merging in French errer. Latin iterare comes from iter "journey, trip"; we also see it in the English borrowing (re)iterate. The sense of "wander off (the straight and narrow), go astray" encouraged the two verbs to merge. (We are happy that our errant Good Words reach Lew Jury and inspire him to suggest words of today's quality to us.)
[postransplanted from Good Word Archive, 9/4)
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