Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-torn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: (Law) 1. To turn over to another, to assign or transfer allegiance, goods, responsibility, etc. 2. To legally acknowledge a new landlord, to accept the new ownership of a property you are renting.

Notes: This is the verb that gave rise to attorney (see Word History). In the past, this word was Anglicized to atturn, but under the influence of its Latin origins it was returned to its current spelling in the legal world.

In Play: This word is often used in the idiomatic phrase 'attorn tenant' meaning to recognize a new owner of rental property, as in: "He decided not to attorn tenant to the new owner and moved to a new apartment." Otherwise, it is an arcane word even in legalese, though not without metaphorical possibilities: "When he agreed to launder the ill-gotten gains of the mod boss, his soul attorned to the devil."

Word History: This Good Word was borrowed from Old French atorner "to turn to, assign, attribute," from a(d)- "(up) to" + tourner "to turn". The noun of this verb, attorné "one you turn to", was borrowed by English as attorney. Tourner is the French version of Latin tornare "to turn on a lathe" from tornus "lathe", borrowed from Greek tornos "lathe" from the PIE root terê- "to rub, turn". Terê- underwent metathesis in Germanic languages to emerge in English as thresh, which originally meant "to trample, stamp". This explains its appearance in threshold. The threshold was originally the place where you stamped your boots to get mud off them. (Perry Lassiter's suggestion of attorney in the Alpha Agora, where he is a Grand Panjandrum, led to the discovery of today's unexpected Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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