• cachet •
Pronunciation: kæ-shay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Prestige, respect, appeal resulting from prestige and respect. 2. A distinguishing mark, such as a postmark signifying a first edition stamp. 3. A seal on a document or envelope. 4. (Dated) Something that makes bad-tasting medicine taste good.
Notes: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French so recently (18th century) that its French pronunciation has been fairly well preserved. That pronunciation, no doubt, has prevented any lexical procreation on its part.
In Play: By far cachet is used in its first sense more than any others: "Marketers know that the words "new and improved" bring cachet to a product whose sales are dwindling." The second sense is probably the second-most often used: "The cachet "new and improved" on the packaging of a product boosts its sales."
Word History: This word was borrowed from French cachet "seal, stamp of authenticity", made up of Old French cacher "to press, squeeze" + -et, a diminutive suffix. Cacher was what you did when seals were waxen. People and companies had an identifying stamp or ring that they pressed into the hot wax. Cacher was the French reduction of Latin coactare "to constrain", a verb built upon coactus, the past participle of cogere "to collect", literally "to drive together", comprising co(m)- "(together) with" + agere "to move, drive, lead". English glutted itself on derivations from agere. Its present participle was agen(t)s, which English plucked as agent. The past participle was actus, which provided a lexical feast for English: act, active, actor, and on and on. (Rob Towart has earned his cachet here from a long series of Good Word suggestions as lovely as today's.)