• compeer •
Pronunciation: kêm-peer • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Someone of equal stature or status, a coequal, a peer. 2. A companion, comrade, associate.
Notes: Except for its second meaning, this word is like perfervid, preeminence, and sempiternal in that the prefix does not change the meaning of the word only makes it emphatic.
In Play: When I was doing a post-doc at Cornell in 1993, I heard this story several times. Charles Hockett, the esteemed author of the best-selling introduction to linguistics of the time, walked into the men's room one day and a graduate student, recognizing him, offered him the last free urinal that he had just taken. Hockett replied, "No, that's OK. We're all peers here." OK, here's an example of compeer: "The royal family does not feel that people with skin of a different color were their compeers."
Word History: English again snatched this one away from Old French comper "compeer", which inherited it from Latin compar "coequal" consisting of com- "(together) with" + par "equal". This word went into the making of comparer "to compare", which English borrowed as well. The neuter plural of par, paria, also went into the making of English pair via Old French paire "pair, couple". That is it we see in English par "equal, of equal value", too. How this word entered Latin is still open to question. The best guess is that it goes back to PIE perê- "to grant, allot (reciprocally)" since this implies equal quality.If so, we know it went into Latin par(t)s "a share, part", which English borrowed for its part and portio(n) "part", which English captured for its word portion. (Today's Good Word is another gift from George Kovac, wordmaster nonpareil—another word derived from perê-.)