Printable Version
Pronunciation: des-pêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A ruler with absolute power, an autocrat. 2. A tyrant, dictator.

Notes: This word has nothing to do with spots or pots, but with tyrants, for the second meaning above is much more popular than the first. Today's Good Word comes with a panoply of derivatives. The adjective is despotic or despotical, and the adverb is despotically. The key factor that goes into the making of a despot is despotism.

In Play: I think we use this word mostly as a near synonym of tyrant today: "Manley Guy, our manager, has no people skills and runs the office like a despot." It can be used around the house in a similar way: "Mom! You're such a despot! Why can't I get a tattoo?"

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed, via Latin and French, from Greek despotes "master of a household, lord" from a Proto-Indo-European compound, dem-/dom- "household" + poti- "lord". The o-variant of the first word seems to have gotten the upper hand after Greek, for we find dome, dominate and domain (or demesne) from this version of the root. The same is true of poti, for we find potent and Persian pasha derived from it. The Persian word is a simplification of an earlier patishah, comprising pati "master, lord" + shah "king". (I would appear to be a despot were I to miss thanking Rachael Gough of somewhere in Australia for spotting today's Good Word and sending it in.)

Dr. Goodword,

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