• truant •
Pronunciation: tru-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, adjective
Meaning: 1. Someone who is absent without permission, especially students who skip school and play hooky. 2. (Adjective) Wandering, straying from a proper place or position.
Notes: The noun for repeatedly skipping school is truancy or, truantry, if you like words that smell a bit dusty. As an adjective it may occur in such phrases as 'truant husband' or 'truant children'. The adjective allows an adverb, truantly. It may also be used as an intransitive verb, as in 'children who truant'.
In Play: This word is mostly used to label kids who play hooky from school: "The main job for cops in New Monia, Pennsylvania, is picking up truants and taking them back to school." Truant may also be used in reference to absence without leave from places other than school: "Harvey Wallbanger played truant from most of his AA meetings."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French truant "beggar, rogue". When used as an adjective, it meant "wretched, miserable, of low birth". French most probably borrowed the word from Gaulish trougant-, an ancient Celtic language, which turned up in Breton as truant "vagabond", Welsh truan "wretch", Gaelic truaghan "wretched". How it came to be in Proto-Celtic is uncertain. However, it did spread to some other Romantic languages: Modern French truand "crook, gangster" and Spanish truhan "buffoon". Deriving it from PIE terê- "pass through, cross over", as the American Heritage Dictionary does, runs into phonological and semantic problems.