Printable Version
Pronunciation: dæm-nê-fai Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: (Rare, mostly British law) To injure, damage, hurt, to wrong.

Notes: This word is only faintly used today. It mostly haunts British legalese, but since we recognize the root, it just might justify resuscitation. I was surprised at the meaning of this word, which clearly distinguishes it from the religious sense of the verb damn. It comes with an abstract noun, damnification.

In Play: The damage implied in today's Good Word may be physical: "In 1709 the young women of Haverhill were allowed to build pews, provided they did not damnify the stairway." The damage may apply to abstractions, too: "The women were very careful so as not to damnify their reputation in the eyes of God."

Word History: English gathered this word on one of its forays into Old French from damnefier, inherited from late Latin damnificare "injure, condemn". Damnificare is a verb derived from the Latin adjective damnificus "hurtful", an adjective based on damnus "loss, damage" + -ficare, the combining form of facere "make, do". Latin inherited damnus from a PIE suffixed form, dap-no-, the P became nasal M before nasal N, by assimilation. PIE dap- "to sacrifice, to lose" went into the making of Latin daps "(sacrificial) feast, banquet". It also emerges in Icelandic and Norwegian tapa "to lose", Ancient Greek dapane "expenses" and dapto "I devour", and in English, with much softened meaning, as tip and tap. (Lest we in some way damnify the reputation of Jim Brown, let us now bestow upon him our most lavish gratitude for digging today's Good Word up from its fairly fresh grave.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!