Printable Version
Pronunciation: de-rê-likt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Abandoned, forsaken, as a derelict ship. 2. (Adjective) Dilapidated, run-down, falling into ruins, as a derelict building. 3. (Adjective) Remiss, negligent, neglectful, as to be derelict in one's duty. 4. (Noun) A forsaken person, a homeless or jobless person, a vagrant who can't take care of himself, as to care for skid-row derelicts.

Notes: Today we have an adjective used as often as a noun. If you remember that the first two vowels are the same, E, then the spelling will present you no problems. The noun accompanying this adjective is dereliction, as in the dereliction of a ship or dereliction of duty. No adverb is available.

In Play: The first sense of the word is used mostly by sailors, but it works in everyday speech, too: "We always found fish around the derelict ship that had been in the bay since World War II." The second sense of the word is also useful in ordinary conversations: "Kaye Syrah's car is absolutely derelict: the paint is peeling, one headlight is broken, and it is covered with unrepaired dents." Finally, as a noun, today's Good Word has a slightly pejorative sense: "Lloyd found alcoholism to be a major problem among the derelicts his mission assisted."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a minor revision of Latin derelictus "solitary, deserted", the past participle of derelinquere "abandon, forsake". This verb consists of de-, used here as an intensifier + relinquere "abandon, forsake". Latin relinquere, in its turn, is made up of re- "back, behind" + linquere "to leave". Linquere came from a nasalized Proto-Indo-European root leikw- "to leave behind". The same root provided Greek with leipein "to leave", Sanskrit reknas "inheritance", German leihen "to loan, lend", and English lend. (We must not be derelict in our duty to express our gratitude to Jackie Strauss for suggesting today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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