• accoutrement •
ê-ku-trê-mênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An accessory. 2. A piece of military equipment beyond the uniform and basic arms.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with an alternative spelling and pronunciation for US speakers only: accouterment [ê-ku-têr-mênt] is now accepted in US dictionaries. Keeping up with the order of Rs and Es poses a particular problem for English speakers in the United States. We tend to switch them in a host of words like prescription, prerogative, and today's Good Word. The only difference is that grammarians have grown weary of reminding us about this word and now accept the switched positions in it. This word is the noun from the verb accoutre (accouter) "to outfit for military duty".
In Play: It is interesting that, even though this word comes from the world of fashion, it does not replace accessory in referring to non-military dress. Rather it is used metaphorically to mean a sign of some particular status or quality: "Looking at Michael Angelo's house made it obvious that it was built by people with all the accoutrements of carpenters but none of the knowledge or skills." Because it is a word of high style, it is often associated with high flyers: "Unfortunately, Ty Kuhn purchased all the accoutrements of wealth—yacht, swimming pools, summer house—before he actually accumulated the wealth to pay for them."
Word History: Like the majority of words in English today, this one came from French, this time, accoutre "to equip". French inherited the word from Late Latin accosturare "to sew together", apparently from an earlier word made up of ad "to" + consutus "sewn", the past participle of consuere "to sew together". Consuere comprises com- "(together) with" + suere "to sew", whose past participle sutus also underlies English suture. But there was another Latin word created from consutus: Vulgar (street) Latin consutura "sewing, clothes-making". French inherited this word, tidied it up (ridding it of its unsightly N, S, and A), and polished it into couture, a word English also borrowed in the phrase haute couture "high fashion".
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