Printable Version
Pronunciation: blai-dee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Slang) England, Britain, home. 2. (Slang) In World Wars I and II a non-threatening wound sufficient for a soldier to be sent home to Britain.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a humorous and affectionate reference to a British soldier's homeland, much like "Jolly old" for "Jolly old England". That is why it is always capitalized, even when referring to a wound. This word is unrelated to the blight in blighter that originally referred to various plant diseases, but came to signify any baneful influence, as in the phrase, "a blight on my existence".

In Play: This word is still current in Old Blighty: "I haven't seen my family in 5 years; I suppose it's time I popped back to Blighty." It began spreading to speakers aside from those who served in India during the World War I: "I went to the dispensary after an aspirin for my headache; they gave me wound stripe (= US purple heart), but I was told that a headache doesn't qualify as a Blighty."

Word History: Today's Good Word was first used by soldiers in the Indian army as an Anglo-Indian alteration of Urdu vilayati "foreign, European", pronounced in some regions bilayati. In yet another related language, Persian, vilayati meant "foreign", especially British or European. This word comprised vilayat "country, dominion, district" + -i, a suffix forming possessive adjectives. The Urdu adjective is also reflected in occasional earlier borrowings of phrases, for example, Blighty Sahib "foreign gentleman". Another phrase containing the adjective was belati pani "soda water", from Urdu vilayati pani "foreign water". These phrases were never fully naturalized in English. (We may now thank Anders of Sweden, Lexiterian in the Alpha Agora, for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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