• engagé •
Pronunciation: en-gah-zhay (US), aN-gah-zhay (UK) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Politically engaged, actively committed to an ideology or cause.
Notes: This is the French word for engaged. Americans have given up on the French pronunciation, but Britishers attempt to imitate the French. When writing, we must remember to put the cap on the final é before letting it go out.
In Play: This word is used most often to distinguish ideological from the nonideological intellectuals: "The 1960s was the decade of the engagé intellectual, Jean-Paul Sartre leading the way." But the noun doesn't need to refer to humans: "Surrealism was depicted by the critics of the time as an engagé art genre."
Word History: Today's Good Word, as mentioned above, was nicked from French intact. The English correlate, engaged, didn't implicate politics or ideology. It is the past participle of engager "to hire, engage; to embark upon; to pledge". French borrowed the root of this word from Old Germanic wadi- "pledge". Since French had no [w] sound, it usually substituted the nearest sound to it, [gw], spelled GU, which then evolved into G. Wadi- then went on to become English wed and wage. Now, wadi- descended from Proto-Indo-European wadh- "pledge", also the source of Latin vas, vadis "bail, surety" and Gothic wadi "pledge". It also became Danish vædde, Norwegian vedde, and German Wette "bet, wager". (Thank you, George Kovac, for yet another fascinating word from your vast vocabulary as well as for the prominent role you play in the Agora discussions.)