Printable Version
Pronunciation: ay-li-ê-nayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To cause to become indifferent, unfriendly, to disaffect, to make someone not want to associate with you. 2. To turn away, to divert, to make someone feel as if they don't belong. 3. (Law) To transfer ownership.

Notes: Alienate should mean "to make someone an alien". It doesn't mean exactly that, but it almost does: it means to make someone feel as though they were an alien. The abstract noun for this verb is alienation and the personal noun, alienator. The adjective most often used is the participle, alienating, though alienative is still around (if not in my spellchecker.)

In Play: The first sense of today's Good Word is simply "to cause disaffection": "You don't think reducing the lunch break to 15 minutes will alienate our workers?" The next sense of this word is "to turn away", as to turn away voters in an election: "His support of the toxic waste plant alienated many of the voters in Jerry Mander's district."

Word History: Today's Good Word is taken from Latin alienatus, the past participle of alienare "to make another's, estrange" from alienus "of another, not one's own" from alius "other". The feminine accusative plural of this word is alias "otherwise, at another time". It was used as an adverb in Latin, but came to English as a noun. That is it we see in alarm, from Italian allarme, originally All'arme! "To arms!" The all(a) is a reduction of ad "to" + illa "that". Alligator, too, comes from this same root. It was borrowed from Spanish el lagarto "the lizard". The Spanish word for "the" was derived from the Latin word for "that", ille, just as English the comes from that. (Lest we alienate the affections of Fay Poole, who suggested today's Good Word, let's thank her now for her service.)

Dr. Goodword,

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