• affray •
ê-fray • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A fray, a noisy quarrel. 2. A brawl or fight. 3. In law, the fighting of two or more persons in a public place. (A fight in which one person attacks another is assault and battery.)
Notes: Words that begin with A are always at risk of reanalysis, the misinterpretation of the initial A as the article a. Orange was originally Arabic narange, but "a narange" was reanalyzed as "an orange". Apron comes from Old French naperon "small tablecloth", reanalyzed in English from "a napron" to "an apron". (An even smaller 'tablecloth', of course, is a napkin.) Affray, too, is being reanalyzed as "a fray" and is being replaced by fray. Why not keep the original?
In Play: The meaning of today's Good Word varies from that of an argument to that of a short fight. This is more likely a heated argument: "Our team lost the game when our high scorer, Stretch Hightower, got into a nasty affray with the referee and was sent to the showers." In this example, the implication is a physical altercation: "Brea Little intervened and very narrowly averted an affray when Al Pacca called Perry Yare a quiche-eating sissy."
Word History: Middle English borrowed this word from Old French effrei, from esfraier "to disturb". It all started with PIE pri- "to love", as in Russian prijatel' "friend". In the Germanic languages, of course, the [p] became [f], so it turns up in English free and German Frieden "peace". An ancestor of German Frieden seems to have been borrowed into Gaulish Latin, perhaps ex-fried-are "to remove from peacefulness", which then went on to become Old French esfraier (Modern French effrayer "to frighten"). By the way, this same French word is the source of afraid, which originally meant "disturbed". (Today's Good Word came to us courtesy of Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, one of the editors of the Good Word series and Dr. Goodword's books.)
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