ded-lain • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A line inside or around a prison beyond which a prisoner may not go without risk of being shot. 2. A due date, a time limitation by which some task must be begun or completed.
Notes: Deadline is a scary word to be used so commonly. We all have deadlines at work, in school, even in church. They are important and scary enough without the word implying that death is involved in missing one. The word history will explain why this is the case. Deadline is a compound noun without lexical relatives.
In Play: A deadline is usually the very last moment by which some task must be completed: "Boss, I knew you were serious about the deadline for my story but why do you have a gun in your hand?" This example shows how important it is to separate the two meanings of today's Good Word. Here is a somewhat softer example: "I hate to work against a deadline, too, Gloria, but I do think we should have the baby shower for Christina before she has the baby."
Word History: Deadline, of course, is made up of dead and line and originally referred to the line around a prison beyond which a prisoner could expect to be shot. The finality associated with that deadline carried over into the metaphorical meaning that is more often used these days. The English word dead comes to us from an Old Germanic stem that also produced German tot, Norwegian død, Swedish död, and Dutch dood "dead", probably old past participles of die. This word descends from PIE dheu- "to faint, die, vanish", also the grandfather of Welsh dyn "mortal, man", Breton "human, mortal", Russian davit' "to strangle, suffocate", and Lithuanian dusti "to suffocate". (We are happy that Segue Fischlin didn't miss his deadline for submitting this Good Word for our daily series.)