Printable Version
Pronunciation: bay-lê-wik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The jurisdiction of a bailiff (or bailie), a sheriff or magistrate in England, and perhaps a few other countries. 2. An area of familiarity or expertise, as London or car repair might be someone's bailiwick of expertise.

Notes: Today's word is not related to the Old Bailey in London, the seat of the Central Criminal Court, made famous by the Rumpole of the Bailey BBC TV series. That building got its name from the ancient bailey or ballium, a section of the city wall within which it is situated. Remember that this word has three I's and ends on CK.

In Play: Your bailiwick is an area with which you are familiar: "Toledo isn't my bailiwick: who do I see about fixing a parking ticket?" Your bailiwick may also be an area of expertise: "The kitchen is just not my bailiwick; I'm much more at home in the dining room."

Word History: Today's word is from Middle English bailie + wik(e) "village, district." Bailie is a shortened form of bailiff, derived from Latin bajulus "carrier, porter." Wick is the current form of Old English wic "hamlet, (city) district". It is akin to Latin vicus "town, district", found in the English borrowings from French, vicinity and vicar. Vicar and vicarious come from the same original PIE word, which also became vicis "change, turn, (re)place" in Latin. A vicar is impermanent, someone who replaces his predecessor and is replaced by his successor. Wick and its variant wich are found today only in proper nouns like Sedgewick, Hardwick, Greenwich, and Sandwich—as well as today's Good Word.

Dr. Goodword,

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