• disdain •
dis-dayn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To reject as unworthy, contemptuous. 2. To regard with contempt, to consider beneath one's dignity.
Notes: Today's Good Word is often confused with several other words beginning with dis-. People disdain things. To disdain something is to hold it beneath contempt, consider it beneath our dignity. Things dismay and disgust people. Things that dismay disillusion or alarm us. Things that disgust us are so repugnant as to nauseate or deeply offend us. The adjective for today's word is disdainful. The nouns disdain and disdainfulness are near synonyms.
In Play: Holding something in contempt is disdain: "Harvey Mugwump disdains all things political and finds that life without politics works pretty well." This word also implies a rejection of anything beneath our dignity: "Izzy Allgood disdains any work that is incompatible with his high moral principles, which is pretty much any work at all."
Word History: Today's Good Word was adopted and adapted from Old French desdeignier. This word was inherited from Latin dedignari "to disdain", based on de "(away) from" + dignari "to dignify, deem worthy". Dignari comes from the adjective dignus "worthy". Its root shares a source with decere "to be fitting", the verb underlying decor "seemliness, grace, elegance" and decorum "seemliness, propriety", both used pretty much as is in English. (Today's Good Word resulted from a suggestion by Paul Rowland of Wallasey, England, whose daughter still disdains the "posh" Good Words he tries to share with her.)
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