• abet •
ê-bet • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: To encourage, support or assist in doing anything, but especially something wrong, such as a crime.
Notes: Although we associate today's Good Word more closely with aid in doing something wrong, it is still used neutrally. The English-speaking world has not decided on a noun for this word: abetment, abettal, and abettance have all been used recently. Notice the doubling of the T before suffixes beginning with a vowel. This is common in English with words ending on a single consonant preceded by a vowel: occur: occurs, occurring, occurred.
In Play: First, let's see how this word may be used in a positive sense: "The vocalist did a lovely rendition of 'Norwegian wood' abetted by a skillful accompanist on the piano." More often it is used in the negative: "Robin Banks had a long criminal career ably abetted by his wife, Betty."
Word History: Today's word was snitched from Old French abeter "to bait, to sick dogs on", originally "to cause to bite", from a- "to, at" + beter "to bait." The prefix a- is all that is left of Latin ad "to, toward", whose source also provided English at. The verb beter was probably borrowed from Old Norse (language of the Vikings) beita "cause to bite", which inherited it via Proto-Germanic from the PIE root bheid- "to split", origin of English bite, (to) bait, bit and bitter, and German beißen "to bite". It also came back to English via a circuitous route as both pita and pizza. The English word beetle also is based on this word. It should have been bittle, but the pronunciation was probably influenced by another archaic noun beetle "mallet".
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