Printable Version
Pronunciation: êb-skahnd Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To leave secretly, furtively, or quietly to avoid some sort of unpleasantness. 2. To hide oneself from view or scrutiny.

Notes: Although of Latin origin, the derivations of this word are strictly English: The person absconding is an absconder and absconding is both the adjective and noun. Abscondment, abscondence, even absconsion were tried for a while in the 17th century but were given up as quickly as they were taken up.

In Play: Abscond implies misbehavior, usually a specific crime specified by the preposition with: "Fleetwood had safely tucked himself away in the jungles of Uruguay before the company realized he had absconded with $1 million of company funds." However, it can also imply a retreat to 'lie low' for whatever reason: "In the coldest weather ever known the mercury basely absconded into the bulb" (J. R. Lowell My Study Windows, 1870).

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin abscondere "to hide" from ab "away" + condere "to put". Latin ab shares an origin with English of and off. The same Proto-Indo-European preposition emerged in Greek as apo "away from", while in Russian the initial [a] was dropped, giving po "according to, along". Latin condere is itself a reduced compound originally based on con "with" and the root *dhe- "put, do", which also became English do. In initial word position, [dh] became [f] in Latin, so this root can be found in Latin facere "do, make", the source of fact, faction, factory, fashion, and many others. It also reduced itself to the suffixes -fy, found in specify and the -fic in prolific. (I cannot abscond without thanking Annette McMullen for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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