• partial •
Pronunciation: pahr-shêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Incomplete, unfinished, (existing) in part only. 2. Biased, prejudiced, slanted, one-sided. 3. Inclined to favor, fond of, having a liking (for).
Notes: This adjective was derived from part. The adverb is the expectable partially and the noun, partiality. Partial may be used as a countable noun, partials, referring to partial dental plates. The antonym of this word is impartial, meaning "unprejudiced, unbiased".
In Play: Fundamental to the concept of "justice" is the impartiality of judges and law enforcement: "The disproportionate number of African Americans in US prisons bears stark witness to partial law enforcement." The usage that favors "fondness" is still rather colloquial: "Most old folks behave themselves because they are partial to favorable obituaries."
Word History: Middle English borrowed Old French parcial, inherited from Late Latin partialis "divisible, partial". Partialis is an adjective, derived from Latin par(t)s "part", handed down from PIE perê- "to grant, allot". This word also went into the making of portio(n) "share, portion", loaned to English as portion. The PIE word survived only in the Romance descendants of Latin, but we find evidence of it in Sanskrit purtam "reward" and Greek peprotai "(it) has been granted". English contains tons of Latinate borrowings from par(t)s: partisan, partner, participate. The modern sense of party comes from the legal sense of party to, which implies belonging to a larger group of people. (We should all express our partiality for the contributions like today's topical Good Word from our old friend and frequent contributor Rob Towart.)