Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-frênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, verb

Meaning: 1. (Noun) An insult, an indignity, something offensive. 2. (Verb) To insult, to offend.

Notes: Today's Good Word is often confused with effrontery "offensive audacity", misleading some of us to spell that word with an initial A. Avoid that. Otherwise, you may use this word as a noun (an affront to stand-up comics) or as a verb (to affront stand-up comics). This noun does not come with an adjective but offensive works just fine as a stand-in.

In Play: Unfortunately, we are surrounded every day by things we find offensive: "Maud Lynn Dresser considered the new office dress code an affront to all free spirits in the company." Finding things to do and say that are an affront to no one is difficult: "Millicent considered the candy machine in the office an affront to her and others struggling with their sugar addiction."

Word History: Today's word comes from French affronter "to face, to brave, to confront", which apparently came from a Vulgar (street) Latin word affrontare, of which we have no direct written evidence. Still, there must have been a Latin ancestor of the French word made up of ad "up to" + fron(t)s "forehead, face" + the verbal suffix, -are, which meant something like "get in your face". The Latin word frons, frontis came from an earlier stem meaning "to protrude, jut out", which may be the ancestor of English brink. There is evidence of it in Old Icelandic and Old Norse but nothing we know of elsewhere. (We hope it was no affront to Dr. Jonathan Glaser, whose suggestion provoked yesterday's Good Word, provoke, that we forgot to acknowledge his contribution. Our gratitude, however belated, is sincere.)

Dr. Goodword,

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