• dour •
Pronunciation: dæ-wêr, dur • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Serious, stern, forbidding. 2. Determined, obstinate.
Notes: Today's Good Word has two pronunciations that lead to some confusion. [dæwêr] is probably preferred now in the US, though [dur] is preferred in Britain. However you pronounce the stem, adverb is dourly and the noun, dourness.
In Play: Today's word can describe a facial expression: "The dour look on the face of Bea Heine made it clear that she was displeased with our antics." It is also reflective of attitude: "Bea's dour resistance to any innovation in the office routine made her a prime candidate for promotion."
Word History: Exactly where today's word comes from is unclear. It probably came from Middle Irish dúr, a word related to Latin durus "hard". The root of this word appears in many words borrowed from Latin and French, such as durable, during, and endure. The PIE root underlying these words, deru-/dru "hard, firm" is also responsible for Russian derevo "tree, wood", as well as Greek dendron "tree", a word seen in our "red tree", the rhododendron. The Latin word druides "druids" is probably a Celtic reduction of this root + wid- "to see", originally referring to "strong seers", the caste of Druid priests. (Which reminds me of the never dour Susan Lister, a strong seer of Good Words who spotted and recommended this one as a candidate for our series.)