Printable Version
Pronunciation: deb-ê-ner Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Suave, sophisticated, urbane. 2. Affable, pleasant, genial.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with an adverb, debonairly, and a noun, debonairness. A truly sophisticated adjective needs no more. If you need words to poke fun at phony debonairness, debonarious and your debonairship have been used before and should equip you well for that situation.

In Play: Today's word should be reserved for the truly sophisticated only: "Perry Yare struck everyone as the most debonair fellow, perfectly dressed and appointed, and extremely gracious to all he encountered at the soirée that evening." That is, until he put a lampshade on his head and began frolicking about the living room. Seriously, though: "Alec Sander very debonairly kissed the hand of the countess, while bowing at the same time."

Word History: Today's word comes from an Old French phrase, de bon aire "of good lineage" comprising de "of" + bon "good" + aire "nest, family". Aire was borrowed by English as an earlier form airie (US) or eyrie "eagle's nest, a high vantage point" (UK). (The misspelling eyrie in the 1660s is due to the false assumption that the word came from Middle English ey "egg".) This word seems to have been derived from post-Classical Latin aerium "room at the top of a tower", which is based on the Latin word for air, aer. French inherited bon, of course, from Latin bonus "good", a word English borrowed on one of its borrowing rampages, and currently uses in a different sense. We borrowed bon, too, for good measure, to use in such expressions as bon voyage, bon vivant, and bon appétit. (Our gratitude today is owed Eric Berntson, a very debonair fellow himself, I'm sure, for his suggestion of this excellent Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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