• acquaintance •
Pronunciation: ê-kwen-têns • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Knowledge of a person or thing, as an acquaintance with a banker or with banking procedures. 2. A person known but not intimately, as an old acquaintance from college.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the noun derived from the verb acquaint "to get to know someone or something". The past participle of this word, acquainted, is used as an adjective, as to be acquainted with a movie star. If you need a longer word, you may use acquaintanceship in the first sense of acquaintance above, as to have an acquaintanceship with a friend of Britney Spears.
In Play: Your acquaintance with a subject is your knowledge of it, but acquaintance usually implies less than a complete mastery: "Ethyl Gass has a good knowledge of the mechanics of driving, but I must say she has only the barest acquaintance with the traffic laws of this state." In the second sense of the word, it is often used to distinguish someone we simply know from those who are relatives or friends; "As soon as Jack Potts won the Lotto, all of his acquaintances suddenly became close friends."
Word History: The verb acquaint, which today's word is derived from, was borrowed from Old French acointier, the descendant of Medieval Latin accognitare, a remake of Classical Latin accognoscere "to know perfectly", created from its past participle, accognitus. The Classical Latin verb comes from ad "(up)to" + cognoscere "to know", whose root cogn- you probably recognize in other words borrowed from Latin, such as recognize, incognito and cognition. The root of gnoscere, gno-, also went through Old Germanic, showing up in English as know and cunning. It also made it into English as kin, people we know all to well, and in Scots English, as a verb, ken "to know, recognize". (We are happy to make the acquaintance of Eileen Opiolka, who lives in Ayr, Scotland, and who suggested today's very Good Word.)