• dekko •
Pronunciation: de-ko • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: (British slang) To look, take a look, take a gander.
Notes: Like many borrowed slang words, this one has not formed a family. The only problem it presents is in its spelling. It began to appear in the 1850s without the final O as dekh or deck. By the early 1900s we find it as dekho, decko and, finally, in today's preferred spelling dekko. Although we list it as a verb, like so many verbs (look included), it may be freely used as a noun: "Take a dekko at that!"
In Play: Although you probably wouldn't want to use this word in a job interview, it will do in an informal conversation: "Freddie dekkoed the crowd at the party and decided to go outside and sit on a park bench until his mates came out." When you use it as a noun, it fits whereever the US correlate gander would: "Take a dekko at what's on Brian's arm over there and tell me he's not good with the birds."
Word History: Today's Good British Word was brought home from India by British soldiers in the 19th century. Its source is Hindi Dekho! "See!", the imperative of dekhna "to see". The Proto-Indo-European root that produced this word in Hindi's parent language, Sanskrit, turned up in the Greek word drakon "dragon", which filtered down through Latin and French to English. (Don't ask what happened to the R in dekko.) The Germanic languages used it, too, for it entered Old English as torht "bright", a word that never made it out of Old English. More remarkable is what happened to the Latin version. The diminutive of dracon "dragon", dracunculus, was worn down by Old French to draoncle "boil, festering sore". At this point English borrowed it and honed it a bit more into rankle. (We are getting a dekko at today's Good Word because Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, the Alpha Agora's Brazilian Dude, was kind enough to recommend it.)