Printable Version
Pronunciation: kæwn-têr-fit Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun & Verb

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Forged, sham, false, fake, deceptively imitated. 2. (Noun) A deceptive imitation, a fake. 3. (Verb) To make a deceptive imitation, to make a fake.

Notes: Since today's Good Word can be used as an adjective, noun, or verb without any makeovers, it has no extensive derivational family. The verbal use allows counterfeiter and counterfeiting, referring to the process. The adverbial form of the adjective, counterfeitly, didn't stick, though it was used, rarely, up to the 18th century.

In Play: Counterfeit is used widely to refer to any creative imitation: "The film was excellent, but it was counterfeited so widely that it actually lost money." If you get caught in a counterfeit operation, the consequences can be terrible: "Lucy took a bite of the plastic counterfeit apple and, because she was in the midst of such distinguished guests, swallowed the bite, pretending the apple was real."

Word History: In Middle English today's word was countrefeten, from contrefet "made in imitation", from Old French contrefait, the past participle of contrefaire "to counterfeit". This verb is composed of contre "against, counter" + faire "to make", the French descendant of Latin facere "to do, make". DH at the beginning of Proto-Indo-European words became F in Latin, so facere came from PIE dhe- "to put, set", same as English do and deed. In Greek it shows up as theke "chest, case" (a place to put things) so, in ancient Greek, bibliotheke meant "bookcase". Latin borrowed this word as bibliotheca "library", the current word for "library" in many European languages. (Our gratitude to Joakim Larsson of Sweden for recommending today's Good Word is not counterfeit.)

Dr. Goodword,

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