• nepotism •
ne-pê-ti-zêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Favoritism shown toward relatives in hiring.
Notes: Today's Good Word is the head of an appallingly predictable family: nepotistic is the adjective and nepotistically, the adverb. A nepotistic person is, of course, a nepotist. Nothing unusual or interesting here, so let's move on.
In Play: What is nepotism? To those outside the family nepotism is corruption, but to those inside the family it is simply good family stewardship: "Come on, Uncle Amos, show a sense of nepotism and give me a chance at this job." It isn't always a bad thing: "If it weren't for nepotism, this company wouldn't be able to hire anyone."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French népotisme with the usual modest English polishing. The French picked up the word from Italian nepotismo, a noun derived from nepote "nephew", the remains of Latin nepo(t)s "grandson, nephew". Currently the Italian word is nipote "grandson/grandaughter" and "nephew/niece". In Romanian, too, nepot means both "grandson" and "nephew". We find the stem of this word in other Indo-European languages: Albanian nip "grandson", Greek nepodes "offshoots", and Sanskrit napti- "granddaughter". Among the Germanic languages we find English nephew and German Neffe, which mean the same thing. (Since neither Susan Lister nor Jan Arps is in any way related to me, I can thank them both for suggesting today's Good Word without any hint of nepotism.)
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