Printable Version
Pronunciation: dee-fin-is-trayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To throw out a window. 2. To remove the windows from.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one of the funnier words of English in that it specifies a mode and place of exit. The verb actually was 'back-derived' from the noun defenestration. This word came into being to describe a popular method of disposing of political opponents in Prague. The Defenestration of Prague in 1618 set off the 30 Years War (1618-1648). That year the Protestant Bohemian aristocracy took offense at the election of a Catholic, Ferdinand of Styria, to rule the empire. At Hradcany Castle in Prague, they threw the local Imperial governors out of the castle windows in protest, unleashing the dogs of war.

In Play: Outside the Czech Republic, objects less controversial than governors are usually tossed through open windows: "Yes, not only did Gwendolyn change the locks on the apartment, she defenestrated all my belongings to the sidewalk below." Since fenestrated means "having windows" to an architect, today's Good Word could also mean "to remove windows", as in, "The architect has now defenestrated our house plans in favor of more and bigger lighting fixtures." Why not?

Word History: Today's word was created by some non-Roman around the year 1618, as defenestration took firm root in Prague. It is composed of de- "from, of" + fenestra "window". Fenestra, which went on to become French fentre and German Fenster, may have been borrowed by the Romans from the Etruscans, who lived nearby but spoke an unrelated language. Suffixes similar to -stra are found on other words borrowed from Etruscan. (Let's all thank Sara Goldman for opening windows to new vocabulary by suggesting words like today's very good if funny one.)

Dr. Goodword,

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