Printable Version
Pronunciation: dis-trawt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Deeply agitated and troubled, at your wits? end.

Notes: The various ways this word is pronounced in different dialect areas makes spelling it a bit tricky. Don't forget that it is spelled with the silent GH. The noun accompanying this adjective is distraction, as to be driven to distraction by the clatter of the jack-hammer. The Word History will explain the relationship.

In Play: Unexpected tragedies or hardships are usually the cause of distraction: "Harley Davidson was distraught to discover that the truck driver he had insulted in the cafe had run over Harley's motorcycle as he drove away." A major disappointment might qualify: "Lucky Fisher was distraught to discover that the only thing in his net was a shark that had eaten his catch."

Word History: Today's Good Word was originally distract, drawn from distractus, the past participle of Latin distrahere "draw or pull in different directions," from dis- "away" + trahere "to draw, pull". For some reason way back in the 14th century, it was influenced by words like caught, taught, and wrought, and the C in this word was replaced by the infamous Silent GH. No one knows why. We do know, however, that the underlying Latin word, trahere, came from the same source as English draw and drag, not to mention Serbian trag "trace, clue" and German tragen "carry, wear". (I'm sure we would all be distraught if we forgot to thank Kathleen McCune, now of Sweden, for suggesting today's stressful Good Word. So, thank you, Kathleen.)

Dr. Goodword,

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