• cadre •
kah-dray • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A tight-knit core group of trained people who are focused on a common purpose. 2. (Military) A permanent core of a regiment that is filled out with more people when needed. 3. Formerly, in the communist parties of Central and Eastern Europe, a small group of political activists who promoted the interests of the party.
Notes: Cadre was borrowed from French cadre "frame(work)" but had come to refer also to a group of commanding officers, civil servants, or managers. The final E has no accent in French and thus is not pronounced. The [kahdray] pronunciation is an American invention that arose in the US by mistake.
In Play: A cadre usually comprises a core of trained people with a single purpose: "We have a highly trained cadre of managers who are aware of the workings of the entire company." The purpose of communist cadres was to proactively educate the masses: "As the communist-era cadres dissolved, their members slipped easily into new advertising and marketing companies."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French cadre "frame", which borrowed it from Italian quadro "frame", inherited from Latin quadrum "a square". The Latin word is a remake of Proto-Indo-European kwetwer- "four", which went on to become chetyre "four" and chetverg "Thursday" in Russian. The initial [k] in the PIE word would have become [h] in Proto-Germanic and ultimately disappeared before [w]. The [w] would have then become [f] resulting in fedwores. Old English converted this into feower, which ultimately became four in Modern English. German and Dutch converted the same Proto-Germanic word into vier "four". (Thanks to our old South African friend Chris Stewart for recommending yet another intriguing Good Word.)
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