Printable Version
Pronunciation: bæng-krêpt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Financially insolvent or otherwise financially ruined, without sufficient funds to cover indebtedness. 2. Totally lacking in some quality, as someone might be intellectually bankrupt.

Notes: Although we are presenting today's word as an adjective, it also serves as a noun meaning "someone who is bankrupt" and a verb meaning "to financially ruin" or "to ruin or destroy", as to bankrupt someone's credibility. The state of being bankrupt is bankruptcy.

In Play: People and corporations that are bankrupt can seek protection under the US Bankruptcy Code, which allows the bankrupt to either sell its assets and go out of business or be reorganized by the courts and continue: "Putting their kids through college leave many parents in the US bankrupt." However, bankruptcy is not limited to finances: "Chenille Tartan must be bankrupt of all fashion sense to wear that polka dot blouse with a striped skirt!"

Word History: Today's hardly Good Word comes from French banqueroute, borrowed from an Italian phrase, banca rotta "bank broken". Rotta is the feminine past participle of rompere "to break" from Latin rumpere. The original stem underlying this verb is found in Indo-European languages with and without the M. It drops out in the past participle of rumpere, giving us ruptus "broken". It was the influence of this word that led to the change of the final syllable of today's word from -route to -rupt. The parallel is with the appearances of rupt-us in words like abrupt, corrupt, and interrupt. In Germanic languages the same original root emerges in German rauben and English rob, an activity that can certainly leave you broke. In Russian it turns up as rubit' "to chop", a cleaner sort of break. (The name 'Sara Goldman' alone should prevent today's contributor from ever going bankrupt?certainly never bankrupt for words.)

Dr. Goodword,

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