• deadline •
Pronunciation: ded-lain • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A line around a military prison beyond which a prisoner may not go without risk of being shot. 2. A time limitation by which some task must be completed.
Notes: Deadline is a scary word to be used so commonly. We all have deadlines at work, in school, even in church. They are important and scary enough without the word implying that death is involved in missing one. The word history will explain why this is the case.
In Play: A deadline is the very last moment by which some task must be completed: "Boss, I knew you were serious about the deadline for my story but why do you have a gun in your hand?" This example shows how important it is to separate the two meanings of today's Good Word. Here is a somewhat softer example: "I hate to work against a deadline, too, Gloria, but I do think we should have the baby shower for Christina before she has the baby."
Word History: Deadline, of course, is made up of dead and line and originally referred to the line around a prison beyond which a prisoner could expect to be shot. The finality associated with that deadline carried over into the metaphorical meaning that is more often used these days. The English word dead comes to us from a stem that is not found much outside the Germanic languages. It comes from Old Germanic daudaz which also produced Germanic words like German tot, Norwegian død, and Dutch doods "dead". (We are happy that Segue Fischlin didn't miss his deadline for submitting this Good Word for our daily series.)
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