• coterie •
Pronunciation: kot-ê-ree or kot-ê-ree • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A clique or cabal, an exclusive group of people with a shared interest.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan with no known relatives or associates. Although borrowed from French, it has been in use in English so long that, in addition to the French pronunciation with the accent on the final syllable, an English version has emerged with the accent on the initial syllable. At this early stage of change, you are free to use either.
In Play: Coteries are held together by a common cause that often motivates action: "Benny Fitz has formed a coterie of teachers lobbying for jeopardy pay for supervising the lunchroom and playground." This word does, however, connote some sort of elitism: "The coterie of socialites that has formed around Portia Carr speaks a language no one outside their clique can understand."
Word History: French coterie originally referred to an association of cotters (cottage owners) who banded together to protect themselves from a lord. The French word devolved from Medieval Latin coterius "cotter" (a tenant of a cot, today a cottage). Medieval Latin may well have borrowed the root from English or some other Germanic language with the word cot. Later the French word came to mean simply a company of people with a common interest. In English, the word cot was replaced by cottage (also borrowed back from French) and its variant cote today refers to the living quarters of some animals, as in dovecote and sheepcote. (Mark Bailey certainly has a coterie of word mavens sharing a common interest in his selection of Good Words like today's)
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