• calumny •
Pronunciation: kæ-lêm-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Slander, false accusations maliciously made to damage someone' reputation.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan. Its only two offspring, calumnier and the verb, calumnize, passed away in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively. It bears no red flags in its spelling.
In Play: An accidental lie is not calumny; it must be intentional: "The claim that I have small hands is absolute calumny!" It is most prevalent in the field of politics: "Opponents of the ACA promulgated the calumny that it would create 'death panels'."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Middle French calomnie, descended from Latin calumnia "trickery, subterfuge", based on calvi "to trick, deceive". Latin inherited this word from Proto-Indo-European kel-/kol- "to deceive, confuse", also the source of ancient Greek kelein "to bewitch, seduce, beguile", Gothic holon "to deceive," Old High German Huolen "cheat", and Old English helian "to prevent from becoming known". No cognate of this original word made it to Modern English, so Latin saved it for us. (It would be pure calumny to deny that Rob Towart was the contributor of today's exceptionally Good Word.)