Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-fahl-kayt, de-fêl-kayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. (Intransitive) Embezzle, misappropriate property that is your fiduciary responsibility. 2. To cut or lop off, to deduct, diminish, subtract, abate. 3. (Law) Reduce a claim by deducting a counterclaim.

Notes: Today's Good Word, like all Latinate words ending on -ate, comes with an activity noun defalcation, a personal noun, defalcator, and an adjective, defalcational.

In Play: Unlike embezzle, the first sense of this word may not take a direct object; it is intransitive: "Les Cheatham defalcated from funds entrusted to him by the pastor of his church." The second sense is less often used, but is still usable in sentences such as this: "Noam Knott is known for defalcating those parts of his duty that do not please him."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from defalcatus, the past participle of Medieval Latin defalcare, comprising de- "(away) from" + falx [falc-s] "sickle, scythe" + a verbal ending. English has several other words implying "sickle" that were taken from Latin or its descendant, French: falcate and falciform "sickle-shaped", and falchion "a curved knife". Falcon also seems also to be derived from falx, probably because of its curved bill, but there are several competing theories of the origin of this word. Evidence from the Celtic and Balto-Slavic languages points to falx originating in a Proto-Indo-European word meaning "needle". However, this PIE word seems not to have spread outside the few language families mentioned here. (Today's Good Word was recommended by Jeb Britton III, who loves the word, if not the act itself.)

Dr. Goodword,

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