• penchant •
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. A predilection, inclination, or tendency. 2. A liking or desire for.
Notes: Penchant is out there all by itself; there are no related words, not even a plural, since it is a mass noun. The only trick is to remember that it ends on -ant, since many words similarly picked off from French spell the same ending -ent.
In Play: Today's Good Word started out meaning only a tendency or inclination: "Rachel's penchant for fact-free commentary on political issues only increases her potential as a future political candidate." More recently, however, it has been leaning more toward the sense of a liking: "Barnaby's penchant for fast cars costs him more in speeding tickets than gas—even at today's prices!"
Word History: This Good Word is the present participle of French pencher "to incline" from Vulgar Latin *pendicare, a variant of Classical Latin pendere "to hang". This root is also visible in other English words borrowed from Latin or French, such as depend, suspend, pendulum, and appendix—all things which hang in some sense. The original PIE root, *(s)pen- "to draw out, stretch" had a Fickle S, that is to say, an initial S that appears in some Indo-European languages but not in others. Latin didn't keep it but English did in words like spin and the name of one of the best spinners around, spider.
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