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anecdote

Printable Version
Pronunciation: æn-ek-dowt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A short, interesting story about a real incident or person. 2. An account of an isolated incident regarded as unreliable hearsay.

Notes: Because today's word refers to an interesting story, and interesting stories are often amusing, this word is used today as a synonym for a mild joke. However, hostile and embarrassing anecdotes are also possible. The adjective that comes with this word, anecdotal, has a particular sense when speaking of proofs. Proofs that are anecdotal are based on hearsay, not reliable statistics.

In Play: A successful life is one at the end of which you have lots of fascinating anecdotes to tell your grandchildren about your life. Remember, today's Good Word provides worthless evidence in an argument: "Pardoe's arguments that the Internet has expanded our horizons were based entirely on anecdotes of people he knows." In other words, his evidence was anecdotal.

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed either from French anecdote "secret stories" or directly from Greek anekdota "things unpublished", the neuter plural of anekdotos. The Greek word comprises an- "not" + ekdotos "published", which may be broken down into ek- "out" + didonai "to give". The Russian word for "published", izdat, has the same design: iz "out" + dat "given", as in samizdat "self-published". We talked about ek- and iz in enubilate. The root of didonai is do-, which shows up on doron "gift" as well. In Latin the PIE word, do- "give", shows up as dare "to give" and donum "gift", whose root is visible in English borrowings donate, donor, and pardon. English render comes from the same source. English borrowed this word from French rendre "to give back", which French inherited from Vulgar (Street) Latin rendere, a modification of Classical Latin reddere "to give back", comprising re- "back, again" + dare "to give". (Let's now give back a word of gratitude to Eric Berntson for offering this fascinating Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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