Printable Version
Pronunciation: brUk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. (Rather archaic) To enjoy the use of, to profit from. 2. To bear, tolerate, put up with, endure.

Notes: The contributor of today's Good Word finds it a more pleasurable way of expressing tolerance than the ham-handed verb tolerate. It is a solidly English word going back to Old English, but has come down with only one derivation, brookable "can be tolerated". It has almost slipped away from English speakers; let's not let that happen.

In Play: Today's word is wholly unrelated to the name Brooks or the brook referring to a small streamlet. Here is a sentence that helps keep them straight: "Brooke Brooks will brook no picnics by the brook." Try this on your teenage son or daughter: "I will brook no opposition to my instructions."

Word History: Today's Good Word, as mentioned above, is a pure English word, rather than a word borrowed from another language. As such it represents a minority in the English vocabulary. In Old English it was brucan "to use, enjoy, possess". It is cousin to German brauchen "to need". Both these words come from Proto-Indo-European bhrug- "to use, enjoy the use of", from which Latin pulled frux, frugis "fruit" and fruor "enjoy", whose past participle is fructus, whence we borrowed, via French, fruit. The meaning arrived at where it is today by passing through a stages where it meant "enjoy eating" and on to "digest, bear on the stomach". "My stomach can't brook this pizza" became "I can't brook this pizza." (I will not brook omitting a note of thanks Dalyn Cook for sharing the fruits of her reading with us today.)

Dr. Goodword,

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