• deference •
Pronunciation: def-ê-rênts • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Courteous respect in yielding our own needs or desires to those of something or someone else.
Notes: Today's word is the process noun from the verb defer "to yield to the will or wishes of someone else". The adjective is deferent or deferential, and the adverb, deferentially. The trap, of course, is the confusion of deference with difference. While a deferential talkshow these days would be quite different for the US, the two words are quite discrete in sound and meaning.
In Play: Today's Good Word strongly implies courtesy: "Out of deference for the office you hold, I will not share my opinion of your performance in that office with you." Deference, however, is respectful yielding to any requirement, person or not: "It is only my deference for the law that prevents me from physically accosting you for saying that!"
Word History: This Good Word is the English version of Old French deferer "hand over, defer to", inherited from Latin deferre "to carry away, refer to". The Latin verb is made up of de- "from, away" + ferre "to carry". The root of ferre, fer-, developed from Proto-Indo-European bher- "bear, carry", which went into the making of English (to) bear. Initial BH became F in Latin regularly. This also explains the relation of burn and furnace: the former is a native English word, the latter a borrowing from Latin. In fact, the PIE root bher- turns up in several English words, including the barrow of wheelbarrow, from Old English bearwe "basket", and Scots English bairn "child", referring to something else that is born.