Printable Version
Pronunciation: fawn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A young deer. 2. [Verb] To give birth to a fawn. 3. [Verb] To lavish affectionate attention (on). 4. [Verb] To seek favor from someone by obsequiously flattering them.

Notes: Outcute this! It is "twofer" day at alphaDictionary. Fawn is actually two words that only accidentally ended up being spelled and pronounced the same (see Word History). The act of fawning in the fourth sense above has been called fawnery, though fawning is probably more common. The noun has given us a color adjective: the yellowish-brown color of fawns is now called fawn. This adjective has produced two offspring of its own: fawnish and fawny, both meaning "like a fawn, particularly in color".

In Play: It is easy to see how someone might think that the verb fawn was derived from the noun: "Amanda has been fawning over the fawn that wandered into her backyard without its mother for over a week now." But as the Word History will show, it isn't: "Eileen Dover fawns over the boss so much, she occasionally drools on his desk."

Word History: The nouns French inherited from Latin were generally in the accusative case, having the ending that marked direct objects. The accusative ending for fetus "pregnant" came to be fetonem in Vulgar (street) Latin. The meaning also shifted to "offspring" along the way to Old French. Old French had reduced this form to faon by the time Middle English borrowed it. When it borrowed this word, Old English was already enjoying the verb fagnian "to rejoice", derived from the adjective fagen "glad". Just as Old French removed the T from the middle of fetonem, Middle English dropped the G (along with some other stuff) from fagnian, converting it ultimately into the verb fawn. (Not to fawn over Lee Blue for his suggestion of today's Good Word, but we should thank him heartily.)

Dr. Goodword,

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