• aperitif •
ah-per-ê-teef, ah-per-ê-teef • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with a fraternal twin, digestif "digestive, an after dinner drink that helps digestion". I decided that since English already uses digestive in the same sense, today's contributor wouldn't mind my switching that word, which he actually suggested, for today's. Most mixed drinks pass for aperitifs in the US, but the likes of Campari, Dubonnet, Lillet, and Vermouth are preferred where the word originates: France.
In Play: Digestifs (digestives) are usually drunk after dinner. The most popular of these are port, sherry, brandy, cognac, Armagnac, or single-malt scotch. Remember to husband the aperitifs before your dinners: "We were served so many strong aperitifs before dinner that not only did they fail to stimulate appetites, they put most of the dinner guests to sleep."
Word History: Today's Good Word came from Old French aperitif "purgative" from Late Latin apertivus. This word was an adjective sometimes used as a noun based on Latin apertus "opened", the past participle of aperire "to open". The Latin verb for "to open, uncover" was a compound in Proto-Indo-European made up of ap(o) "away, un-" + wer- "cover". The head of this compound, wer- emerged in English almost unchanged as weir "dam, fish trap". It also arrived in English as warrant, a word borrowed by French. Now, French didn't have a W at the time, so they used the next best thing in French—GU, pronounced [gw] at the time. The result, guarant, was next borrowed back by English as guaranty and guarantee when French GU was pronounced [g]. (I must beg Iain Smallwood's mercy for changing the word he suggested, digestif, for reasons laid out above, even as I thank him heartily for setting me in the right direction.)
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