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Pronunciation: dai-kæst (US), di-kæst (UK) Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Heliast, a citizen of ancient Greece who was elected to serve as a judge and jury.

Notes: Here is a word for those of you who read a lot of Greek literature. The adjective is dicastic, and the courts in which dicasts served were known as dicasteries (singular dicastery). Dicastery may also refer to a congregation of the Holy See, such as the Dicastery of Bishops and the Dicastery of Clerics.

In Play: The income of a dicast would hardly cover one meal a day: "The salary of a dicast was three obols or half a drachma per diem." In his play "The Knights", Aristophanes has one of his characters say, "Here, Demos, feast on this dish; it is your salary as a dicast, which you gain through me for doing naught."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English modification of Greek dikastes "judge", from dikazein "to judge", a verb based on dike "right, custom". Greek inherited this word from PIE deik'-/doik'- "to show, present, proclaim", visible in Latinate English borrowings like edict, predict, and abdicate. We find it in Latin dicere "to say, tell", which became dizer in Portuguese, decir in Spanish, and dire "to say" in French and Italian. Latin also made digitus "finger, toe" out of it. It ended up in English as simply toe. In German we see its remains in German zeigen "to show" and Zeichen "sign, signal". (Now for a graceful bow to Grand Panjandrum Luke Javan, whose first contribution back in 2010 has accumulated 101,655 views so far.)

Dr. Goodword,

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