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Pronunciation: dis-sê-plin Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Training to carry out the rules for a certain type of behavior, using punishment for disobedience. 2. The rules for such training. 3. A branch of knowledge taught and researched in an institution of higher learning.

Notes: This word may be used as a verb, too, meaning "to carry out discipline" or "to punish". The most common adjective is disciplinary, though disciplinatory and disciplinarian are out there, too. The latter may also be used as a noun referring to someone who maintains strict discipline using punishment.

In Play: Discipline is most at home within regimented organizations: "Ancient Sparta was a military state, so to be 'Spartan' was to adhere to a code of military discipline." That doesn't mean that it isn't useful around the house: "Delbert's behavior was subject to strict discipline at home rather than tea and sympathy."

Word History: English took this word directly from French discipline, inherited from Latin disciplina "instruction, knowledge, science". The Latin word was based on discipulus "pupil, student, follower", source also of disciple. The Latin word comprises dis- "apart" + cip-, the combining form of capere "to take (hold of)" from the PIE word kap- "to grasp, hold". The action noun from capere is captura "a taking", that went on to become French capture "taking, capture". From our Germanic ancestors, we find English have and haven. In German the PIE word turned into haben "to have", Hafen "port, harbor", and Haft "handle". We also see the reflex of kap- in the suffix -haft, originally meaning "having" as in lebhaft "lively, having life" and tugendhaft "virtuous, having virtue". In Dutch we find hebben "to have", have "property, assets". (Now a hearty nod of gratitude to newcomer Mark Laporta, such a disciplined reader as to discover today's fascinating Good Word and graciously share it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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