Printable Version
Pronunciation: dee-ah-, dee-æ-blê-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Mischievousness, charismatic wildness, devilment, devilry, prankishness, tomfoolery. 2. Sorcery, black magic, witchcraft assisted by the devil.

Notes: Since this word was captured only in the 18th century, English has only had time to Anglicize the accent, leaving it a lexical orphan. Diablerist has been used a few times in the past to refer to artists who paint or draw figures of the devil.

In Play: Diablerie is an action right at the border of evil, but which some people will laugh at: "Well, in grammar school he loved pulling the chair from under someone sitting down, but I never approved of such diablerie." The original, now secondary, sense of this word is black magic: "They once threw women accused of diablerie into a pond to see if they were guilty or not."

Word History: Today's Good Word is French diablerie, a derivation from Latin diabolus, copied from Ancient Greek diabolos, "slanderous, backbiting". The Greek word is an adjective from diaballein "to slander", literally "to throw across", from dia "through, across" + ballein to throw". Ballein, believe it or not, was passed down from PIE gwel- "to drip, flow; throw", source also of German Quelle "wellspring, source", Danish kval "trouble, anguish", and English qualm. The Old English word for "devil" was deoful, a reduction of the same Latin diabolus. Other Germanic languages adopted the word independently: Dutch duivel, German Teufel, Danish djævel, and Swedish djävul. The Romance languages, of course, directly inherited it as French diable (whence diabl-erie), Spanish diablo, and Italian diavolo. (Now let's all give long-standing wordmaster Lew Jury a bow of sincere gratitude for finding and sharing today's tantalizing Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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