• partisan •
Pronunciation: pahr-tê-zên, -zæn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A fervent, perhaps biased, supporter of an organization, person or cause, particularly in politics. 2. Guerilla, resistance fighter, a member of an underground citizens' organization fighting against the occupation of his or her country.
Notes: This word is less often spelled the way it is pronounced: partizan. This is the spelling in Eastern Europe where the partisan underground was particularly active in World War II. We have two words for the status of a partisan: partisanism or partisanship. The antonym is nonpartisan.
In Play: Political partisanship today haunts the news: "Partisans of the minority party use the filibuster to defeat the majority party's bills in the US Senate." The second sense of this word is more often used in reference to the underground resistance to Nazi and Fascist occupations: "World War II might have turned out differently had Tito and the Yugoslav partisans not prevented four German divisions from reinforcing Nazi troops in Stalingrad."
Word History: Today's Good Word was nabbed from French partisan, which borrowed it from Italian partigiano "factionist, partner", derived from parte "part, party". This word was passed down from Latin par(t)s "part, division; party, faction", which Latin inherited from PIE pere- "to grant, share, allot". Several Latin words derived from this word were borrowed by English as particle, party "involved individual", participate. Latin portio(n) "a part, share" also comes from pere-, which English nicked, too. This word is found in other Latinate words, like apportion and proportion. (Gratitude is owed Jeremy Busch, reliable keeper of the Agora, for recently recommending today's topical Good Word right here in the Agora.)