• elect •
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To choose for a specific function or purpose by voting, as to elect a new president. 2. To freely choose from an unrestricted variety of choices, as to elect a college course outside one's major.
Notes: Today is Election Day in the United States, a good time to take a look at the verb on which election is based. This verb has given us plenty of offspring: the action noun election and the personal noun elector. This word's adjective, electoral, is prominent in the name of the Electoral College (pronounced Electoral not Electoral) that makes the final choice of presidents in presidential elections. The electorate is the body of electors or voters as a whole. The verb has its own adjective, too, elective, which comes with an adverb electively. Beyond that, the verb itself may used as a postpositional adjective in expressions like president-elect and senator-elect, referring to an elected official who has not yet been sworn into office.
In Play: Elect differs from select in referring to selecting someone for a specific position: "In a democracy, the people always elect the government they deserve." This verb also bears the connotation of selecting freely among an array of choices: "If I elect to shave the top of my head and grow hair on the bottom of it, that is my decision to make."
Word History: Today's Good Word is another Latin gift, taken this time from electus "chosen", the past participle of eligere "to choose". This verb was originally ex "out of" + legere "choose, appoint, read". The root of this verb, leg-, seems to have originally meant "to collect" and "to speak". No one knows why this root bears these two seemingly unrelated meanings. We find the root, though, in Latin lex, legis "law" (a collection of rules), a word curled up inside English legislator. Legislator was originally the Latin phrase legis lator "bearer of laws". But then we also see it in lexical and lexicon, which come from Greek lexis "speech", from legein "to speak".
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