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gentrify

Printable Version Pronunciation: jen-trê-fai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To restore and improve a run-down area of a city until it meets the standards of affluent people.

Notes: Today's word has taken on a slightly pejorative sense recently. Since poor people usually live in run-down areas, gentrifying such areas implies making them unaffordable to the people originally living there. This word comes with all the derivations available to words borrowed from Latin with the suffix -ify: gentrification, the process, and gentrifier, a person who gentrifies an area.

In Play: This word is most closely associated with improving real estate: "As developers continue to gentrify New Monia, the less affluent people who once lived there are moving into trailer parks in the suburbs." It may just as well refer to other things that are changed to meet the expectations of the well-to-do: "The gentrification of the city council has led to many improvements in the streets, the sewer lines, and water lines of the city."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a derivation of gentry, a word that arose in the 13th century as genteleri "those of noble birth". This word was made up of the ancestor of today's gentle + -eri (-ery today), a noun suffix indicating a class or category of things, such as cutlery, finery, pottery. Middle English genteleri then lost some of its innards and came to us as gentry, keeping its original meaning. English gentle was originally a borrowing of Old French gentil? "high-born, noble, of good family". Today French gentil? means "kind, nice", itself borrowed by English as genteel. The French word gentile descended from Latin gentilis "of the same family or clan", from gens, gentis "race, clan". Gentilis was also used to translate Greek ethnikos "foreign, heathen" from ta ethne "the (other) nations". In the Bible this phrase translated Hebrew ha goyim "the nations", referring to those nations aside from the nation of Israel. English gentile [jen-tail] preserves that meaning. (Today we thank Bill Lord for the gentility of suggesting this Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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