Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-frên-tê-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Insolent audacity, insulting chutzpah or moxie, gall, extreme presumptuousness.

Notes: Here is another curve ball like English loves to throw us. Although the stem of today's word is pronounced identically with affront, the two words are not related in English (see Word Hisitory for details). An affront is an insult, but effrontery is a kind of brazenness that is insulting. Effrontery has been abandoned by its parent, the verb effront, and by its adjective, effrontuous. Both are obsolete and considered to have outlived their usefulness by most dictionaries.

In Play: Effrontery is such an exaggerated effect that it often appears in sentences ending on an exclamation point: "After we waited a half hour for him to leave the bar, he had the effrontery to assert that I was holding everyone up!" Here is an example that demonstrates that effrontery is an extreme kind of chutzpah: "After killing both his parents, he had the effrontery to ask the judge for leniency because he was an orphan."

Word History: French effronterie, which English borrowed, changing only the ending, is based on effronté "shameless". This word devolved from Vulgar Latin effrontatus, a presumed derivation of Late Latin effron(t)s "barefaced, shameless", composed of ex- "from" + fron(t)s "forehead, brow". Affront, on the other hand, comes from Old French affronter, a descendent of the Latin phrase ad frontem "in (the) face". You can see how close these two meanings are, making them likely to be mixed as they are in today's Good Word. Latin frons also referred to those emotions, shame and boldness, expressed by the brow. English brow, Russian brov', and Greek ophrus, all meaning the same thing, share the same source.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!