Printable Version
Pronunciation: bi-wil-dêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Perplex, confuse, befuddle, especially by complexity. 2. To make lose someone's bearings, to make wander off track

Notes: Since bewilder is a thoroughly English word (not borrowed), we can use the participles as adjectives: bewildering and bewildered. Both these adjectives have adverbs: bewilderingly and bewilderedly. However, the noun has a Latinate ending: bewilderment.

In Play: The literal meaning of today's world is "to confuse": "The whole world is bewildered by our company president's behavior." We are free to use it creatively: "The songstress left the music business at the peak of her career because the world's constant gaze bewildered her into retirement."

Word History: This purely English word was created from be- "cause to, make" + wilder "lead astray (into the wilds)". Be- is a causative prefix, meaning "cause to, make". Verbs created with this prefix are usually met in the form of their past participle. It is used quite actively. This quote from the 19th century could have been written by a contemporary author: "Is there another country under the sun so becushioned, becarpeted, and becurtained with greenery?" Wild comes from PIE welt-/wolt- "woods, wild land", whence German Welt "world" and Wald "forest", and British wold "upland open country". German and Dutch wild "wild", Danish and Swedish vild "wild", and Norwegian ville "wild" also share this source.

Dr. Goodword,

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