Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-ê-poynt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To let down, to fail to meet or fall short of expectations.

Notes: The fact that today's Good Word doesn't mean "to remove from an appointed office" may reflect how difficult it is to remove an appointee from their position: we don't even have a word for it. This word is rapidly being assimilated into English for it has native derivations for adjectives: disappointing and disappointed. Only the noun retains evidence of its French origins, the suffix -ment in disappointment.

In Play: We worry most about disappointing our parents: "Father was disappointed that I used my law degree to enter politics rather than joining him at his law firm, Howe, Dewey, Cheatham & Wynn." This shoe fits both feet, though, for parents also worry about disappointing their children: "Terri was disappointed that her parents didn't come to her dance recital—until she stumbled and fell off the stage." Then, presumably, she was happy they weren't there.

Word History: Today's word comes from 14th century French desappointer, which had the meaning we would expect: "undo an appointment, remove from office". This verb came from des- (Latin dis-) "un-" + appointer "to appoint". The modern sense of disappoint "fail to meet expectations" emerged in the late 15th century from the second meaning of appointment "engagement, planned meeting". Failing to make an appointment in this sense always disappoints the doctor or lawyer expecting a fee from the missing client. Appoint itself comes from the French phrase à point "to the point". Old French appointer originally meant "to come to the point" hence "to agree on, to settle". The root of this word, French point, is what is left of Latin punctus "pricked, dot left by pricking", the past participle of pungere "to prick". The root of punctus occurs in other English borrowings from Latin such as punctual. (We will not disappoint John Tomic by forgetting to thank him for seeing the unusual in today's Good Word and suggesting we explore it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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