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cheeky

Printable Version Pronunciation: chee-kee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Impudent, presuming, audacious, mildly insolent.

Notes: Again today we have a word that finds itself used more in Britain than stateside. This adjective is derived from cheek in the sense of "impudence, audacity, nerve", as in "After assigning me that tiny office, he had the cheek to ask if he could have my desk."

In Play: Cheeky leans more toward "presuming" than toward "insolent", as this example illustrates: "That Phil Anders is a cheeky git: after I told him I didn't want to go out with him, he asked if my sister was free!" You can't go too mildly with the sense of this word: "When I refused to tell him my age, the cheeky devil asked me when I was born. How stupid does he think I am?"

Word History: The noun that produced today's Good Word, cheek, comes from Old English cece "jaw, the fleshy wall of the mouth". This word came from Old English ceowan "to chew", which in fact came to be chew in Modern English. Chew came from the same source as such currently diverse words as German kauen "chew" and Russian ževat' "to chew" (žuju "I chew"). Now, here's the good part: today's Good Word doesn't come from this sense of cheek, but from the metaphorical sense of "buttock". In days gone by, "to cheek someone" meant what "to moon someone" means today. I think you can figure out the semantic journey of cheeky from there. (It would certainly be cheeky of us not to thank William Hupy for seeing the good in today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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