• maneuver •
Pronunciation: mê-nu-vêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A skillful move or action taken to achieve some end, as tapping on a glass is a maneuver to get everyone's attention. 2. (Noun) A large-scale military exercise, as a division out on maneuvers. 3. (Verb) To direct around obstacles or over a course, as to maneuver a car along a serpentine road.
Notes: If you are in Britain or other English-speaking region that follows British orthography, remember to use the original French spelling: manoeuvre for today's word. The verb in this spelling is then conjugated: manoeuvres, manoeuvring, manoeuvred. The adjective and process noun with US spelling are simply maneuvering, but today's word comes with another adjective, maneuverable "capable of being maneuvered".
In Play: The sense of this word has broadened to include any kind of action or strategy to achieve an end: "Women don't seem susceptible to Percival's maneuvers to pick them up." The basic sense of the verb is to drive something along a crooked course: "Mildred bought a new car when her old one became difficult to maneuver."
Word History: Today's Good Word was originally the French manœuvrer, a reduction of a Latin phrase manu operari "to operate by hand". Manu "by hand" is the ablative case of manus "hand", which underlies English manual "by hand; handbook" and is found in many other borrowed words, including manufacture, manipulate, and manicure. Operari is derived from Latin opus "work", the plural of which is opera, a word we borrowed to use as a singular noun. French also developed a noun from the Latin phrase, manœvre, which was reduced in English to something quite different: manure, an etymological relationship that reminds me to wash my hands whenever I maneuver anything. (We thank Chris Stewart, our old friend from South Africa, for maneuvering today's Good Word our way.)