• despondent •
dis-pahn-dênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Dejected, discouraged, disheartened.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the adjective of the verb despond "to become dejected, discouraged", as in "Henry desponded at the news that his knitting won no ribbons at the county fair." The noun is formed either by adding the suffix -s, and spelling the result despondence [dis-pahn-dênts] or by adding the combination -s+y, resulting in despondency. (Don't let the spelling fool you.)
In Play: Despondency is a milder, shorter form of depression: "Miriam Webster has been rather despondent since losing the spelling bee." Anything disappointing is apt to leave us despondent: "Natalie Cladd has been rather despondent since seeing Maud Lynn Dresser in the same cocktail dress she wore to the spring cotillion."
Word History: Today's word was taken from Latin despondere "to give up, surrender", made up of de- "(away) from"+ spondere, "to pledge". Spondere is not related to spend, which is a reduction of Latin expendere "spend, expend". Rather it comes from an ancient root spend-/spond- "make an offering, perform a rite", which also underlies sponsor and spouse. Both these words were originally sponsus, the past participle of spondere. Late Latin added the -or to this stem to create sponsor, while Old French dropped the ending and the internal N, to produce spouse. (Let's hope the only relation between our spouses and despondency is etymology.)
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