• scathe •
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To harm or injure. 2. To excoriate, to rake over the coals, to chew out, to furiously criticize.
Notes: Today's Good Word survives only in participles: the negative form of its past participle, unscathed "unharmed", and in the positive sense of its present participle: scathing "bitterly denunciatory, very harshly critical". We seldom ask ourselves where did these words come from or where do they fit in the English vocabulary? They both come from today's word.
In Play: Politics is where scathing is most popular: "When Senator Bunkham changed his position on legalizing smart phones while driving, it unleashed a string of scathing tweets on social media." If a politician can survive a scathing attack, he or she is golden: "Senator Bunkham emerged from the attacks unscathed when he simply flipped back to his original position."
Word History: Today's word is a gift of the Vikings who "visited" the coast of England from 789 to 1066. They brought along with them Old Norse skaða "to hurt, injure, damage" which, no doubt, they used quite often. Skaða was derived from Proto-Germanic skath- "hurt, injure", which became Dutch schaden, German Schaden, and skada in Swedish. Skath- devolved from the PIE root sket- "to injure". Its remnants are found in Greek word, a-skethes "unharmed, unscathed" and Armenian khat'arem "obliterates, destroys". It also turns up in Serbo-Croatian skoditi, Polish szkodzic, and Czech skodit—all meaning "to harm or injure".
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