Printable Version
Pronunciation: de-prê-dayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: To prey on, plunder, ransack, ravage, lay waste.

Notes: Today's word, which has nothing to do with predating, has an abundant family. The personal noun, depredator [de-prê-day-dêr], has the accent on the same syllable. However, in the action noun depredation [de-prê-day-shên], and in the adjective depredatory [di-pred-ê-tor-ri], it changes syllables. Don't confuse today's word with deprecate.

In Play: This verb originally referred to predatory actions: "Tigers and leopard depredate villagers in the winter." However, the sense of this word has expanded since it entered English in the 17th century: "Tornadoes depredate wide and, sometimes, long swathes of inhabited areas." We might even try a figurative use: "Lucinda Head depredated the meeting with her verbal bullying about makeup and fashion."

Word History: Today's Good Word was sneaked away from Latin depraedatus, the past participle of depraedare "to pillage, ravage", made up of de- "from, thoroughly" + praedari "to plunder, prey on", a verb based on praeda "prey, booty, spoils". English prey was all that was left of praeda when Old French finished with it (Old French preie). Latin inherited its word from a prefixed form of PIE ghe(n)d- "to grab, seize" with a Fickle N. The N is present in Albanian gjen "finds", Latin prehendere "to catch", and Welsh gynnal, cynnal "to hold, maintain". Without the N we find Russian zagadka "riddle", English get and guess (from get-s), and Lithuanian godus "greedy, avid". (Now a bow to active Agoran Eileen Opiolka, who recommended today's almost forgotten Good Word for our enjoyment.)

Dr. Goodword,

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