• diploma •
di-plo-mê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A document conveyed by an educational institution, testifying to the fact that the holder has completed the requirements for a degree at that institution. 2. (Historical) An official document issued by a government, such as a title, license, charter.
Notes: A diplomat is someone with official documents from his government. Diplomat is based on the Greek plural of the word, diplomata. The adjective diplomaed is not the presumed past participle of the verbal use of this word, but an adjective in the class of forested, bearded, uniformed, meaning "having X". Diplomatology is the study of original documents.
In Play: The most popular usage refers to the document certifying you've completed a course of study at an educational institution: "When Xavier was expelled from one college for blowing up a chemistry lab, he switched schools and was awarded a diploma with honors in chemistry." Any educational institution can confer diplomas: "Homer has a high school diploma, but he can't locate his hometown on a map."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Greek, where the plural was diplomata. It began its life there meaning "official document". It comes from diploun "to fold double", a verb based on diploos "double", which originally comprised di- "two, twice" + -ploos "-fold", from PIE pel-/pol- "to fold". Since the Germanic languages generally turned [p] into [f], we are not surprised at its link to English fold, German falten "to fold", Danish folde, and Dutch vouwen, where the origin of the U is L. It also underlies Albanian palë "fold, pair, yoke" and Greek peplos "woman's robe", with a reduplicated prefix. German Zweifel "doubt" is made up of zwei "two" + -fel "-fold", implying second thoughts. (There is no doubt that we owe Monica Freund a word of thanks for suggesting today's certifiably Good Word.)
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