• debauch •
di-bawch • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To morally corrupt, pervert, deprave, defile. 2. To greatly reduce in value or quality of something, to degrade or debase it.
Notes: The action noun for this word is debauchery. However, this verb may be used without any affixal accessories (prefixes or suffixes) as a noun in the sense of "an act of debauchery". English has two personal nouns for this verb, one subjective and one objective, debaucher and debauchee, respectively.
In Play: In the first sense of this word, we might hear things like this: "Phil Anders claims to have never debauched a woman successfully." The expanded meaning makes sense in utterances like, "Rusty Horne debauches his artistic integrity at the altar of greed every time he plays his trumpet for a dance."
Word History: English acquired this word from Middle French débaucher "to entice from work or duty", which meant in Old French "to lead astray". (Today it means "to fire; to poach; to leave work".) It is made up of de- "(away) from" + bauch "beam; workshop", borrowed from Frankish balk, or some other Germanic source akin to English balk/baulk "wooden beam". The shift from [l] to [u] still occurs in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey before consonants where help is pronounced [heup], belt, [beut], and film, [fium]. Bauch is also a word meaning "workshop," which pushes us toward the notion of "to abandon work or duty", a kind of dereliction. In the sense of "beam", balk went on to become German Balken "beam, rafter" and English balcony. (Let's not debauch Good Word tradition by forgetting to thank Lew Jury for suggesting today's fascination Good Word.)
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