Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-fêngkt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. No longer functioning . 2. No longer living, dead, deceased, no longer existing.

Notes: English once had a noun defunction, which meant "dying, death", but it has long since become defunct itself. Its replacement, defunctness, is rare. We do have an adjective, defunctive, that seems to be alive and well.

In Play: This word is most often used in the sense of "nonexistent" today: "The vacuum tube is just another piece of defunct technology like typewriters, horse carts, and manual automobile throttles." However, its basic sense is "not functioning", which could leave the issue of nonexistence an open question: "The Eaton Inn restaurant is now defunct; it closed its doors last month."

Word History: This Good Word is Old French defunct (Modern French défunt) inherited from Latin defunctus "finished, dead", from the past participle of defungor "to discharge, finish", combining de- "off, completely" + fungor "to perform or discharge duty". Fungor comes from PIE bhung- "be of use, be used", the source also of Sanskrit bhunjate "to benefit, make benefit, atone", Armenian bowcanem "to feed", and Old Irish bongaid "to break, harvest". Function comes from Latin functio(n), another derivation from the past participle of fungor. (We owe another debt of gratitude to Jackie Strauss of Philadelphia. Thank heaven the stream of recommendations from her has not gone defunct.)

Dr. Goodword,

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