• alibi •
æ-lê-bai • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An excuse consisting of an explanation of where you were when a bad act took place for which you might be a suspect. 2. (US colloquial) Any other type of excuse.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used colloquially as an intransitive verb in the US. As an intransitive verb, it usually means "cover someone with a false excuse". It is used with the preposition for, as 'to alibi for a poor performance'.
In Play: Today's word was originally a legal term, still used in the investigation of a crime. Suspects must provide an alibi for explaining where they were at the time the crime was committed: "Robin Banks's alibi for the murder was that he was involved in a robbery at the time." It has long since slipped out of the legal arena and entered the general vocabulary: "Hey, Ginger, we can give each other alibis! You tell your mother you're sleeping over with me and I'll tell my mother I'm sleeping over with you."
Word History: Today's Good Word is akin to alien and alias via its Latin root al- "other". In Latin it was an adverb meaning "elsewhere", based on the root of the adjective alius "other", ali- + ibi "there". Alias is just another form of alius, meaning "otherwise". Alien came from Latin alienus "belonging elsewhere", an extension of alius. The root of alius passed into Latin pretty much unchanged from PIE al- "other, yonder". This root also came through regular Germanic channels to end up in English as else. (Even though my aging memory provides me with a perfect alibi, I simply cannot miss thanking Jackie Strauss for suggesting today's very Good Word.)
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