Podcast beguile

Printable Version
Pronunciation: bê-gile Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To deceive by charm, to seduce, to bewitch or enchant for the purpose of deception. 2. To deprive of or divert by charm, as to beguile someone's attention away from their troubles.

Notes: So long as you remember the U in today's word, you should have no problems using or spelling it. She is a beguiler who beguiles and her business is beguilement. The adjective is beguiling, which may be used adverbially if you are careful to add the traditional -ly, so as to create beguilingly.

In Play: Beguile carries with it very romantic connotations suggestive of an almost pleasant kind of deception: "The opalescent eyes of Rhonda Blokkenbek were too beguiling for the defenses of most of the men in her life." As you can see, beguilement can be quite disarming: "When Tess Tamoni agreed to cooperate with the FBI, the mob tried to kill her, but she beguiled the gun right out of the assassin's hand."

Word History: Today's Good Word appears to be one of those words borrowed back and forth between the Romance and Germanic languages leaving a trail of new words in the process. Beguile is be- + guile with a prefix that at one time intensified transitive verbs (making the meaning more emphatic). Guile was borrowed from Old French guile. Now, Old French had no [w] sound, so when it borrowed words beginning with W from Germanic languages, GU [gw] was the closest match French could muster. (That is why ward turned up in Old French as guard, originally pronounced [gward]—today garde.) So Old French borrowed the ancestor of English wile for its guile, which makes sense, since we must use our wiles to beguile someone.

Dr. Goodword,

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