• bizarre •
bê -zahr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Fantastically odd or strange, departing wildly from the norm, unexpectedly widely deviant.
Notes: Today's word itself looks a bit bizarre for an English word. Of course, that is because it was borrowed from French, where it looks a bit out of place, too. It comes, however, with an ordinary adverb, bizarrely, and an ordinary noun, bizarreness.
In Play: In order to be bizarre, a thing must be way, way beyond the limits of the expected: "Can you imagine anything so bizarre as an old starched shirt like Noah Zarque going out with a teeny-bopper like Lucy Lastik?" This word is also used, perhaps too frequently, in hyperboles: "I thought I had seen everything in outlandish style, but the bizarre outfit Maude Lynn Dresser came to the ball in set a new standard in outlandishness."
Word History: We have our choice of two etymologies for this word, neither of them satisfactory. French bizarre "odd, fantastic" began its life meaning "handsome, brave". French apparently borrowed the word with this sense from Spanish bizarro. Spanish acquired the word from that odd language, Basque, whose origins are also a mystery. In that language bizar means "a beard". The theory goes that bearded Spanish soldiers used this word in France but made an impression on the French different from the one the Spanish intended.
On the other hand, our Good Word today may have come from Italian bizzarro "angry, irascible" from bizza "fit of anger". If this is true, this trail also gets muddy because we can only guess that bizza comes from Old Germanic bizzan, the same word Italian borrowed for pizza, which is bite today in English and beißen in German. So, both trails contain quicksand. (It would certainly be a rather bizarre error to forget to thank Raven Edwards for suggesting today's very Good Word.)