Printable Version
Pronunciation: fe-dê-fræg-ês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Promise-breaking, untrustworthy, perfidious, faithless.

Notes: This word is so seldom used it turns up in the Worthless Word for the Day and Luciferous Logolepsy. It does appear in the most prestigious dictionaries in the US (Merriam-Webster) and UK (Oxford English). Both mark it as obsolete. The single example the OED gives for the noun fedifraction implies an underlying verb, fedifract. (This word is making my MS Word spellchecker angrier and angrier.)

In Play: Since this word refers to people and nations that break covenants, I can understand its application to the US: "The historian Richard Drinnon once wrote about a fedifraguous period in American history when the federal government broke 400 treaties and agreements with the Native American nations." It is applicable even to indivituals: "I was accused by my sons many times of fedifragous behavior, when I simply changed my mind about things promised." Of course, they never used the word.

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Latin foedifragus "that breaks treaties, treacherous", made up of foedus "treaty" + frangere "to break". The f(o)ed- is the same root we see in federal, since federations are held together by covenants like the US Constitution. Foedus came from PIE bheidh- "to trust, confide", which also produced Old English bidan "to wait, stay". The friction of the years reduced it to bide. It also went into the making of Latin fidelis "faithful", as in the US Marine motto, semper fidelis "always faithful" or Adeste Fideles "Oh, Come all ye Faithful".

Frangere comes from PIE bhreg- "to break", origin of English break and breach. The past participle of frangere is fractus "broken", the underlying root of English borrowings like fracture, fraction, and refract. An unexpected member of this family is sassafras. Sassafras came to English from Spanish sasafras, a reduction of Latin saxifraga. While the history of this word is unclear, it clearly contains a variant of frangere. (Today's far out Good Word was influenced by the mysterious Grogie of the Agora. I would love to see his or her reading list.)

Dr. Goodword,

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