Printable Version
Pronunciation: bê-tray Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To violate a trust or duty, break a confidence. 2. Commit treason, give aid or comfort to an enemy. 3. To make known unintentionally by body language, intonation, facial expression, etc.

Notes: This word has two nouns, a personal one, betrayer, and an action noun, betrayal. It is clearly related to traitor, which comes from the same Latin source (tradere "to hand over").

In Play: This word is usually associated with high-level betrayals: "Cody Coder knew the four means of convincing someone to betray their country: money, ideology, coercion, and ego, known by the acronym MICE." However, we face more subtle betrayals every day: "Even though June McBride said, 'Yes', her face betrayed her displeasure at Phil Anders's request."

Word History: Today's Good Word comprises be-, a verbalizing prefix added to nouns + tray "grief, trouble", borrowed from Old French traine "betrayal, deception, deceit". The French noun derives from the verb trair "betray, deceive" from Latin tradere "to hand over", originally a compound comprising trans "across, over" + dare "to give". Dare comes from the PIE root do- "to give", whose remnants we find in several Indo-European languages, including Russian dat' "to give" and dacha "gift, dacha", Serbian dati "to give, French donner "to give", Greek doron "gift" and dosis "something given", which English borrowed and adapted as dose. (Lest we betray her, let us all thank Sue Gold of Westtown School for proposing today's excellent Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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