• delinquent •
Pronunciation: dê-ling-kwênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, noun
Meaning: 1. Neglectful of duty, law, or other code of conduct, like school attendance. 2. Committing minor crimes, antisocial. 3. Overdue in payment, as 'a delinquent account'. 4. (Noun) Someone who commits minor crimes as a youth, as 'juvenile delinquent'.
Notes: Delinquency (the noun) is most often associated with young people and the misdemeanor crimes and other minor violations they tend to commit. The verb was delinquish, which meant until the 17th century "to fail in a duty or obligation". Now that verb is a synonym of relinquish "to surrender (something), give up".
In Play: Sometimes delinquent can refer to minor crimes; other times it refers to misbehavior just short of criminal activity: "The congressman under investigation was delinquent and could not be found." Of course, regular payments and accounts may be delinquent: "The president ordered six months delay in rental payments in order to prevent them being declared delinquent."
Word History: This word was copied from Latin delinquen(t)s "failing, transgressing", the present participle of delinquere "to fail, fall short; do wrong, transgress," from de "down (from), off" + linquere "to leave, forsake, depart from", from a nasalized version (containing a Fickle N) of PIE leikw-/loikw- "to leave". The preposition de is a reflex of PIE de/do "to(ward), which turned up in Russian as do "(up) to, English to, German zu "to", and the ancient Greek suffix -de "-ward", as in domonde "homeward", from domon, accusative of domos "home" + -de. Leikw-/loikw- underlies Greek leipein "to let, abandon", Irish ligean "to let (go)", Icelandic leigja "to let, rent (out)", Lithuanian leisti "to let, allow", Latvian ļaut "to let", French laisser "to let", German lassen "to let" and, of course, English let. (Now let's turn our gratitude yet again to Tomasz Kowaltowski, professor emeritus, University of Campinas, Brazil, for not being delinquent, but building his reputation here by suggesting today's complex Good Word.)