Printable Version
Pronunciation: foy-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The weaker, flexible section of a sword or foil blade, between the middle and the tip. 2. A minor weakness or failure of character or behavior.

Notes: Here is a lexical migrant from the vocabulary of fencing. It has remained an orphan except for an archaic noun foiblesse, which referred in the past to an even smaller weakness or a liking, as 'a foiblesse for chocolate'.

In Play: Today's word refers to a forgivable flaw in a person's character: "The most noticeable foible of Maude Lynn Dresser is her constantly lying about her age." It may also refer to a group of people: "The foibles of a nation usually may be found in the proverbs and sayings of neighboring countries."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French foible "weak section of sword", a variant of feble "weak", whence English feeble. Today Old French feble is faible. French inherited and reworked its word from Latin flebilis "lamentable, deplorable, to be wept over", an adjective from flere "to cry". This word would seem to have derived from the PIE word bhle-/bhlo- "to blow, howl", origin of English blow and bleat, Dutch blaten, German blöken, Russian bleyat'—all meaning "to bleat", and Greek blekhe "bleating, crying of children". (Now another e-bow to our old friend wordmaster Albert Skiles, who obviously has a strong foiblesse for words, for suggesting we run today's engaging Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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