Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahn-tig-nay-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Archaic) The joining together of timbers to create a framework. 2. The framework so created, a structure formed by joining timbers together.

Notes: This word is hanging on to the English vocabulary by its nails. It is the action noun from the verb contignate, which has long since lost its grip and fallen into oblivion.

In Play: According to the Oxford English Dictionary only the second sense is in current use: "The contignation of the floor allows it to squeak and bow when large parties dance on it." Let's retrieve the first sense from the oblivion it has fallen into: "The carpenters completed the contignation of the new house in two weeks."

Word History: Today's Good Word was copied from the Latin lexicon, where it is listed as contignatio(n), comprising con- "(together) with" + tign(um) "beam, building material". Con- descended from PIE k'om- "by, with, near", which also arose in Latin as the preposition cum "(together) with" but was converted into ge-, a noun and past participle prefix in Old English, Dutch and German. Welsh made cyn "before", Albanian, kë "with", and Russian and most other Slavic languages, s(o) "with" out of it. Tignum is what Latin did with PIE (s)teg-/(s)tog- "pole, stick, beam" with a Fickle S. Languages that kept the Fickle S include German stechen "to stick", English stick, Lithuanian stagaras "stalk, stick", Russian stog "stack", and Serbian stozher "pole, pivot". Latin tignum and Armenian takn "cudgel, club" dropped the initial S. (Thanks now Eduardo de Oliveira for finding today's shaky Good Word at the edge of the English-speaking world and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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