• pioneer •
Pronunciation: pai-ê-neer • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Someone who takes up residency in a new and unknown, previously unsettled territory. 2. A plant or animal that is the first of its species in an region. 3. A risk-taker who is among the first to do anything, as the Wright brothers were pioneers in aviation.
Notes: This Good Word comes with a big, purely English family. It may be used as a verb, as to pioneer in the development of the computer. From this verb comes an adjective, pioneering, which may be used as a noun, too. We may have a pioneering spirit because of our pioneering in some area of endeavor.
In Play: We must be among the first to take up residency in a place to be considered a pioneer: "Sue Aside was a pioneer in the gentrification of one of the seediest areas of the city." Indeed, if we are the first to do anything, we may safely call ourselves pioneers: "Dusty Moff was a pioneer in the development of the helicopter ejector seat."
Word History: A pioneer was originally a foot soldier who prepares the way for the army. In Old French it was paonier from peon "a low-ranking worker or soldier". Old French peon devolved from Late Latin pedon "foot soldier" from Classical Latin pedo, pedonis "someone with big feet". This word comes from pes, pedis "foot". Now, the Latin word was derived from Proto-Indo-European ped-/pod-"foot", the same root that gave the Germanic languages the grandfathers of English foot and German Fuss, as in Fussball. The PIE root became pod "foot, leg" in Greek, the language from which we borrowed the word for the three-footed tripod. (Susanne Williams is a pioneer to this website, for which we thank her, as we thank her for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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