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Pronunciation: di-prayv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To corrupt morally, to make evil or wicked, pervert, debauch.

Notes: Today's verb is rarely used except in the form of the past participle, depraved, which now is considered an adjective by most dictionaries. The accompanying noun, also more frequently used than the verb, is depravity [di-præ-vê-ti].

In Play: This word, when used at all, is usually accompanied by corrupt: "Lady Chatterley's Lover was thought to deprave and corrupt young minds so much that, in the 1950s, the University of North Carolina's copy was kept locked in the rare book cage, available only to those over 18 years of age." We don't have to use corrupt, though: "Politics depraves some people to the point that the choice to enter politics is an economic decision."

Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of de "(down, away) from" + pravus "crooked, misshapened". De came from PIE de-/do-, a demonstrative pronoun base, which became English to, Dutch tot, toe "to, also", and German zu "to". Pravus is listed in the best etymological dictionaries as "of unknown origin". But it looks very much like Russian pravyj "right, correct". Proto-Indo-European words often took on opposite meanings, such as cold and scald, English black and French blanc "white", and Russian belyi "white". We could have another case of antonymic semantic switch. If so, Latin pravus could come from PIE pro-wo- "(straight) forward" leading to "correct". That would make pravus akin to German Frau "woman, wife" and Russian pervyi "first". (Today's Good Word was brought to Frank Myers's mind by current events in the public sphere, so he suggested it in the Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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