• daunt •
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To discourage, to make fearful, to undermine someone's self-confidence in being successful.
Notes: Sometimes the very meaning of a word precludes derivational families. What would a daunter, for example, refer to? It once referred to a horse trainer but not since the verb lost its sense of breaking in wild animals. You might run into dauntless "who cannot be daunted", but the word today is rather rare. In some English dialects, this word is pronounced the same way as don't. Don't let this disparity daunt you; just be careful how you spell today's word.
In Play: We probably hear the present and past participles of today's Good Word more often than the verb itself. We seldom hear expressions like, "The task of inventing a helicopter ejector seat so daunted Tom that he gave it up before trying." We are more likely to hear utterances like this one: "Undaunted by his previous failures, Troy flung himself into the daunting task of inventing a helicopter ejector seat, hoping it would make him a fortune."
Word History: This Good Word is a modified version of Old French danter, the French remake of Latin domitare "to tame", a variant of domare with the same meaning. The original sense of this verb was "to housebreak", obvious from its root, domus "home, house", also underlying the English borrowing domesticate. Why we borrow such words is a bit puzzling, since the Proto-Indo-European word behind Latin domus was inherited by English through its Old Germanic ancestors as tame. The best explanation I can imagine is that English is a lexical kleptomaniac. (We are so happy that Janice Ramey of Ashville, Ohio, was not daunted by the task of suggesting today's very Good Word for our series.)
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