chæmp-yên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Someone who has won or currently holds first place in a competition. 2. Someone who fights for a cause, a supporter. 3. Someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field.
Notes: Though overused by a world addicted to superlatives, this word still retains the power of its original meaning. The status of a champion and the achievement of that status is a championship. We do not have to be a champion to champion a cause. We may use today's Good Word as a verb meaning "to support energetically" without changing it an iota.
In Play: When we crown the best teams in sports, we usually designate them champions, but we find champions elsewhere, too: "Constance Noring is the champion slacker in our office." There was once a television series that accurately reflected the third meaning of this word. It featured people with dazzling, often never-heard-of-before, skills: "If you want to see a man play the banjo while his feet are wrapped around his neck, 'Master of Champions' is the TV show for you.
Word History: Today's Good Word started out as Latin campio, campionis, from campus "(playing) field". It originally meant "contestant on the playing field" but later came to mean the winner of a battle or competition. For reasons hard to explain, CA became CHA in French as we see in château, which derived from Latin castellus, the same word from which we created castle. This being the case, we are not surprised that campio also gave us the word campania, which became Champagne in French, the region of France where the celebratory libation for champions originated. (Today's Good Word was suggested by the champion of the Good Word podcasts, Brian Gockley.)