• curtilage •
kêrt-ê-lij • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The area surrounding a house considered part of its property by virtue of a fence surrounding it.
Notes: Here is a real lexical orphan—no derivational relatives. Admittedly, this is generally a legal or real estate term. However, it might find a place in your conversations and is shorter than the alternative: the definition above.
In Play: Remember, today's word refers to a house and an attached plot of land surrounded by fencing: "The price of the property was high because it contained a large curtilage." Its meaning is so specific, it should be useful even if rarely: "Fred's new house had a curtilage just the right size for a sumptuous garden."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a simplification of Old French courtillage, from courtil, diminutive of cort "court". Old French inherited cort from Latin cohor(t)s "courtyard, corral". Latin came by the word from Proto-Indo-European gher-/ghor- "enclose, enclosure". This PIE word is one of the most productive in all Indo-European languages. It appears in Latin also as hortus "garden", borrowed by English (as well as by several other IE languages) in horticulture. It became gorod "city" in Russian and grad "city" in Old Church Slavonic, prominent in Leningrad and Beograd "White city" = "Belgrade". In Germanic, the o-variant is visible in English garden and German Garten, which we find in the borrowing kindergarten "children's garden". English used the e-variant, too, in Old English geard, which today is yard. (Now a word of gratitude to Jeremy Busch, who recommended today's excellent Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)
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