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foolhardy

Printable Version Pronunciation: ful-hah(r)-dee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Dangerously adventuresome, recklessly bold, rash.

Notes: Today's word is one that isn't what it seems. The reason, as we will see in the Word History, is that the meaning of hardy has changed recently. Despite the awkwardness of foolhardily and foolhardiness, several dictionaries are willing to allow their use as an adverb and a noun, respectively.

In Play: Bzzzzt!Foolhardiness involves injudicious risk: "I think M. T. Wallet was foolhardy to invest such a substantial sum to develop an electric fork, the success of the electric knife notwithstanding." Some of us, though, think a little risk spices up our lives: "I find bungee jumping to be no more foolhardy than jumping out of an airplane with what amounts to a glorified umbrella."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Old French fol hardi where fol meant "fool" but hardi meant "bold, daring", a word that started out as the past participle of hardir "to harden". This Old French word was borrowed from a Germanic language, for hard is Germanic all the way. Kor-t-, the root underlying hard, underwent metathesis in Greek, resulting in kratos "strength, power", a root that turns up in democrat and democracy "people power, power by the people". The same simple root (kor-) appears without metathesis in karkinos "crab, cancer", two things that are hard to live with. In Latin the same word turns up as cancer with the same meanings as the Greek word. (It would be foolish if not foolhardy to omit thanking Larry Brady for suggesting today's Good Word since he is a powerful voice in our Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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