• pied-a-terre •
pye-dê-ter • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A small second house or apartment that is not a permanent residence.
Notes: If you preserve French diacritical marks in your spelling (and can find them on your keyboard), you may spell this word pied-à-terre. Because it is a phrase in French, it comes with no derivational relatives. However, look out for its French plural: pieds-a-terre. Singular and plural are pronounced identically.
In Play: A pied-a-terre is a home away from home, a getaway that might be a room or a mansion: "Throckmorton is not a wealthy man though he does maintain a modest three-room pied-a-terre on the Left Bank in Paris." You may fittingly substitute it for cottage in the company of the top-drawer crowd, the upper crust: "Manuel has a fishing cottage that doubles as a ramshackle pied-a-terre for his wife on Emerald Isle."
Word History: Today's Good Word was originally a French phrase: pied "foot" à "on" terre "(the) ground". How that phrase picked up its current meaning, I will let you guess. Pied is the French version of Latin pe(d)s "foot", found in borrowings such as quadruped "four-legged (animal)" and pedal. Terre, of course, came to French from Latin terra "land, earth", found in the phrases terra firma, terra cotta "cooked earth" and words like terrain, territory, and Mediterranean, the "middle earth" sea. (We wish we could offer Perry Lassiter a weekend at alphaDictionary's pied-a-terre at the shore as a reward for suggesting today's Good Word but, alas and alack, Pennsylvania has no shore.)
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