• decrepit •
di-krep-it • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Weakened, broken-down, worn out, shabby, dilapidated by old age, use, or neglect.
Notes: Growing up down South, people still pronounced this word decrepid, today an obsolete pronunciation. In the 40s, down there, we could also still hear holp as a past tense for help and sot as a past tense for sit. The adverb is decrepitly and the noun, decrepitude.
In Play: This word usually describes aged people: "Arthur was a decrepit but rich old man, who had a much younger trophy wife." However, it may refer to anything fitting the definition above: "A decrepit old motorcycle drove up with a rider to match."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French decrepit and never changed a whit. French inherited the word from Latin decrepitus "very old, infirm", removing only the adjective ending. The Latin word was made of de "down (from)" + crepitus "broken", the past participle of crepare "to crack, break". Latin inherited the word from ker-/kor- "harsh, hoarse, creaking sound" which, with metathesis, also produced Danish ravn, Dutch raaf, German Rabe, and English raven, as well as Old English hrok, which today is rook. Without metathesis it shows up in Latin cornix "crow" and corvus "raven", in Greek korax "raven" and korone "crow", and in Lithuanian kranklys "crow". (Today's remarkable Good Word was yet another gift of Anna Jung, one of our newest, yet most prolific contributors.)
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