• refugee •
re-fyu-jee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A person forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, who is seeking refuge or asylum in another country.
Notes: Today's Good Word seems to be a derivation of refuge. Nouns ending on the suffix -ee are produced only from verbs, however, and not from other nouns. This word has a few relatives. The status of being a refugee has been called refugeeism and refugeeship. In Australian slang from World War II refugee was reduced to reffo.
In Play: We sometimes forget the role of refugees in the success of the United States: "Sergei Brin, cofounder of Google, came to America as a refugee from the Soviet Union." However, we may be refugees from any bad situation: "Herman retired to the silence of his study, a refugee from the boring after dinner gabble."
Word History: Today's word comes from French refugié, the past participle of refugier "to take shelter, protect", used as a noun. This word was a hand-me-down from Latin refugere "to run away" consisting of re-, an intensifier here, + fugere "to run". Latin inherited fugere from Proto-Indo-European bheug- "to flee", which Greek turned into feugo "I flee", Lithuanian into begti "to run, flee", and Russian into begat' "to run, flee". This PIE word apparently never made it to the Germanic languages, like German or English. (Today we need to spread our gratitude over Katy Brezger, Iain Smallwood, and Jeremy Busch, all of whom over the years have recommended today's quite topical Good Word.)
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