• desuetude •
de-swi-tyud, di-syu-i-tyud • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: State of disuse, discontinuance of use implying obsoleteness.
Notes: Today's word is the noun for the seldom used adjective, desuete "out of use, not used any more". Just remember that the negative prefix in this word contains an E (des-) and not an I, as in disuse.
In Play: Desuetude is simply a lovelier surrogate for disuse: "Passenger service on US railroads has fallen into desuetude." It extends to abstract concepts, too: "Many think that civility has fallen into desuetude in the US."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a borrowing from Latin desuetudo "disuse," a word based on desuetus, the past participle of desuescere "become unaccustomed to". This word may be broken down to de "(away) from" + suescere "become used to", a word inherited from PIE swedh-sko-, from a suffixed form of root swe- "itself, oneself", the third person reflexive pronoun, referring back to whatever the subject of the sentence is. Swe- turns up in Russian as svoy "one's own" and English as self. In French and most Romance languages it is now se and in German it is sich. (Now let's thank Sue Gold, the contributor of today's Good Word, for her effort in preventing it from falling into desuetude.)
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