Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-bays Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To demean, degrade, or belittle; to deprecate or lower in the esteem of others.

Notes: This word has more to do with undermining the reputation or character of someone than with demotion or lowering in office, though that was its original meaning. A person who belittles others is an abaser, the agent noun. The action noun is abasement, the process of abasing others—putting their reputation in a basement, so to speak. Be careful not to confuse this verb with abate "to lessen" (or a cellar).

In Play: Abasement is an attempt to lower something or someone in the eyes of others: "Only a bad manager abases those on his team who do not live up to his standards." Respect, however, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder: "The discovery that he was a lawyer abased Reginald in the eyes of the other picnickers."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from Old French abaissier "to lower" (Modern French abaisser), created from "to" + baissier "to lower". The root here, baiss- (Modern French bas "low, bottom") came from Medieval Latin bassus "fat, thick, low". The same root is the source of base, which started out referring to the fat, thick, lower end of a column or wall. In Spanish it became bajo "low, lower", as in Baja California "Lower California", the Mexican peninsula that extends from southern California. Of course bass, referring to the lowest singing voice or the lowest string instrument in a musical group, came from the same origin.

Dr. Goodword,

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