Printable Version
Pronunciation: kêk-old Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A man whose wife is having an affair with another man (or woman).

Notes: Although adultery can be a serious matter, today's Good Word treats it as a joke. Cuckold is an oddity: a pejorative term for men with no corresponding word for women. Much more frequently the situation is just the reverse. The treatment received by a cuckold is cuckoldry, though cockoldage and cockoldom have been tried, too. We may use this word freely as a verb in referring to a woman who cuckolds her husband.

In Play: In today's world where we are (far too) free with our love, this word receives little use: "Will Doolittle pretends to have an 'open' marriage rather than admit that he is just an ordinary cuckold." If you decide to revive it, don't forget cuckold may be used as a verb, too: "Frieda Livery cuckolds her husband professionally, I hear."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an adaptation of an Old French word cucualt, based on cucu "cuckoo" plus a pejorative personal suffix -alt, sometimes -ald, that was borrowed from a Germanic language. The betrayed husband is associated with the cuckoo bird because of that bird's habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. Cuckoo eggs hatch quickly, before those of the nest's owner, and the cuckoo hatchling intuitively evicts any other eggs—or hatchlings—from the nest. (Today we thank Jackie Strauss for picking cuckold from the finds of her reading and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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