• outre •
Pronunciation: (UK) u-tray, (US) u-tray • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Outlandish, eccentric, bizarre, freaky, unorthodox, unconventional. 2. Extravagant, exaggerated.
Notes: The hyperbolic definitions above are to be taken in the context of the rigid mores of high, old-money society, where it is mostly used. Notice the difference in the British and American pronunciations. This word has remained so French that it is just now losing the hat on its final E. Feel free to keep it there, if you please.
In Play: The first sense of the word is used in referring to something that is just too much, over the top: "When Aly Katz and I made love, it was not the outré turkey baster and chandelier love, but not all that bad, either." The second sense is more moderate: "Maude Lynn Dresser came to the party in a smashing dress, but the accessories were simply outré".
Word History: English copied this word from Old French, outré "defeated, surpassed" past participle of outrer "to (sur)pass someone", Modern French "to outrage". This word was based on outre "beyond", modified from inherited Latin ultra "beyond", as in ultrasound and ultrared. Ultra began as a suffixed form of PIE root al- "beyond", found in many IE words, like Latin alter "other" which English borrowed for its alter ego and its verb to alter. This root also ended up in Latin as alias, an alternate name, which English helped itself to as well. The PIE root came through its Germanic family to English as else. (I cannot be too outré in thanking Chris Stewart for today's fancy Good Word, submitted months ago.)