Printable Version
Pronunciation: di-têr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Stop, prevent an occurrence, or make it less likely. 2. To discourage someone from proceeding.

Notes: Remember to double the R in the noun, deterrence, and adjective, deterrent, which doubles as a noun meaning "anything that deters". A passive adjective, deterrable, has also been sighted and cited.

In Play: In its first sense, we might hear today's word in expressions like this: "Don't try to deter me from my rest; I am bound and determined to sleep away the day." In its second sense, we might encounter something like this: "Some think the death penalty deters murderers."

Word History: Today's word is a French-English remake of Latin deterrere "to frighten away, discourage from", comprising de "(away) from" + terrere "frighten, scare", also underlying English borrowings like terror and terrible. Terrere was inherited by Latin from PIE root ter-/tor-/tr- "to scare", source also of Sanskrit trasanti "to tremble, be afraid", Greek treëin "to tremble, be afraid", and Russian tryasti "to shake". With an -m suffix it became tremulare "tremble" in Latin, which became Italian tremolare, Spanish temblar, and French trembler, whence English tremble. (Let's not be deterred from showing our gratitude to Frank Myer, retired professor at SUNY Stony Brook, contributing Good Words like today's since 2006.)

Dr. Goodword,

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