• escheat •
Pronunciation: is-cheet, ish-cheet • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, verb
Meaning: 1. Legal reversion of ownership of property to the appropriate governmental authority when no legal heirs or other claimants exist. 2. Any property affected by escheat.
Notes: Here is a legal term not often encountered by the general public. It may be used as a verb referring to the action implied by an escheat, making the way for an adjective, escheatable "liable to escheat". An escheator is a governmental official who certifies escheats.
In Play: This word probably occurs most often as a noun: "Several types of property of suspected drug lords are made escheat upon arrest." However, it may be used as well as a verb: "When Ferdie died intestate and with no claimants to his fortune and estates, both were escheated to the government."
Word History: Today's Good Word was captured from Old French eschete "inheritance, demise", a noun made from the past participle of escheoir "befall, occur", the French retooling of Late Latin excadere "to fall out, away". Latin excadere is made up of ex "(out) from" + cadere "to fall", from PIE k'ad- "to fall", source also of the Latinate borrowings cascade and cadence. We also see remnants in Sanskrit sasada "fallen out", Armenian ts'atsr "low", Welsh cesair "hail", and Cornish keser "hail". (Now a note of gratitude to Susan Maynard, now a major contributor, for sharing today's fascinating Good Word with us.)