Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahs-tyum Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A style of dress characteristic of a particular culture or period, as the national costume of Serbia. 2. Clothing worn as a disguise, such as a Halloween costume or a costume worn to a costume ball.

Notes: This word has been extended from time to time: a costumer is someone who makes costumes, and a costumery is a collection of costumes. The adjective costumic probably wasn't used seriously the few times it appeared in print.

In Play: Booooo!Halloween costumes were worn for disguise in the 30s, 40s and on into the 50s when 'Trick or Treat' meant exactly that. People did not buy piles of candy to distribute to docile kids; in fact, small kids stayed home Halloween night. Teenagers and preteens, disguised in costumes so that their neighbors wouldn't recognize them, knocked on doors. They demanded a treat and threatened a trick if none was forthcoming. No positive response meant that your windows would be soaped or splattered with eggs, the air let out of your car tires, or that some other misfortune would befall you.

Word History: Today's Good word is an old-fashioned spelling of custom, Old French costume "custom", which Middle English borrowed as custume. The French word devolved from Latin consuetudo "custom, habit" and, like habit, as a riding habit or monk's habit, originally referred to clothing customarily or habitually worn by a particular group. Latin consuetudo is based on the verb consuescere "to accustom", made up of con "with" + suescere "to become accustomed". The root of suescere is Proto-Indo-European swey- "self", which came down to Russian as svoj "own, belonging to oneself" and to English as self. This same root is behind Latin sui "of oneself", found in the English borrowed word suicide "killing of oneself". We see the same root in swami, borrowed from Sanskrit svami "one's own master". (As is our custom, we thank today's contributor, in this case Regis Young, for suggesting such a highly topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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