• debride •
Pronunciation: dee-breed • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: No, today's word does not refer to the removal of a new spouse from a groom by disgruntled in-laws, but the surgical excision of dead or dying (necrotic) tissue or the removal of foreign matter from a wound. The reason lies in wait for you below in the Word History.
Notes: Although today's word seems to contain bride, it retains its French pronunciation, which sounds like breed. The noun for today's verb is debridement, which may be pronounced as in French [de-breed-maN] or the less pretentious English way [dee-breed-mênt]. Both terms are currently used exclusively in the field of medicine; however, we suggest next that they have metaphorical implications that reach far beyond this narrow domain.
In Play: Today's word is certainly more at home in medicine than elsewhere: "Pressurized irrigation together with suction is effective in debriding wounds." However, the implication here is that debridement is the removal of things necrotic and superfluous, so as to allow healing. This definition offers metaphorical opportunities simply too exciting to ignore: "I feel that if we debride this department of the loafers and malcontents, it will heal itself shortly and run smoothly." See what I mean?
Word History: Today's Good Word is a recent arrival from French: débridement, from débrider "to unbridle, debride" from Old French desbrider : des- "de-, un-" + bride "bridle". The analogy comes from the likening of constricting bands of dead tissue to bridles. The French word for "bridle" probably came from Middle High German bridel "rein" from the root of bregd-an "to pull, twitch", related to Old English brigdel "bridle". This word contains an old instrumental suffix -l, found elsewhere in handle (instrument for the hand), saddle (instrument for sitting), and treadle (instrument for treading). The stem is also related to braid in the sense "jerk, twitch." (Many thanks to Richard Schmeling, who recommended debridement as a medical term that should not be debrided from the core English vocabulary.)