• fete •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A large celebration or festival. 2. A village, school, or church bazaar to raise money.
Notes: Today's word was borrowed so recently from French that most publishers still insist that the first E keep its French hat, and spell it fête. It is the preferred spelling in Britain and probably elsewhere outside the US. The noun functions as a verb as is, as to fête someone on their birthday.
In Play: In order for a party to be a fête, it must be a grand party, indeed: "Portia Radclyffe's wedding was a fête still remembered for its lavish music, decorations, and cuisine." Social organizations often hold bazaars or fairs to raise money. These are also known as fêtes outside the US: "The summer fête at St. Andrews raised enough money to repair the roof of the vicarage."
Word History: Today's is another of those words English borrowed from other languages at several stages of their development, this time from French and Latin. The Latin word festa "holidays, feasts" became feste in Old French, when English borrowed it as feast. By Modern French, the S had disappeared and, wherever S disappears from a French word, a cap (circumflex) is placed on the preceding vowel, hence fête. The Latin root goes back to an earlier root dhes- "holy, holiday". In Greek this root became theos "god", often the center of festivities. It is the root of many English borrowings from Greek, including theology "study of religion", theocracy "religion-based government", and atheism "belief in no god". (We are in no position to stage a fête for Luke Javan for suggesting today's Good Word, but we can express our hearty appreciation for his effort.)
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