• Infraction •
in-fræk-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A violation of a law or breach of contract or other rule or agreement, an infringement.
Notes: This word is the action noun of a rarely used verb, infract "to break, violate" or the archaic contranymic adjective infract, which meant both "broken" and "unbroken". Infractible "capable of being broken" is still alive, though ailing badly.
In Play: Today's Good Word is quite topical: "The news these days is glutted with reports of infractions of the law by politicians and police." Laws are not the only thing that may be infracted: "Some members of Congress understand their infractions of the public trust."
Word History: English's capacity for burgling other languages is no better exemplified than with today's word: infraction and infringe were snitched from the same Latin verb. English snatched today's word directly from Old French infraction, inherited from Latin infractio(n) "a breaking, weakening". Infractio(n) is the action noun based on infractus, the past participle of infringere "to damage, break", the ultimate source of English infringe. This verb is made up of in- "in" + the combining form of frangere "to break". Frangere is the Latin makeover of PIE bhreg- "to break", source also of English break and breach, German brechen, Dutch breken, Italian breccia "breach, breakthrough", and French broyer "to grind, crush". English fracture was borrowed from Latin fractura, based on the same past participle as the root of infraction. (Lest we commit an infraction of tradition, let's now thank Rob Towart for suggesting today's rather topical Good Word.)
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