Printable Version
Pronunciation: for-gæ-dhêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To get together, gather, assemble, convene, usually ahead of some event. 2. (Rare) To meet by chance, unexpectedly.

Notes: An alternative spelling of today's word is forgather, depending on whether you mean "to gather before an event" or "to gather for an event". The meanings are essentially the same, so the two spellings are hard to justify.

In Play: While foregather isn't always used so clearly, here is a clear example of the difference between it and plain and simple gather: "The conference attendees foregathered for drinks in Emanuel's room, then proceeded to the evening sessions." An explicit example of the difference between forgather and foregather is more difficult to find: "When they arrived at the hall for the evening session, they found a goodly crowd forgathered in the hall."

Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a combination of fore + gather. The latter word descended from Proto-Germanic gaduron "come or bring together", source also of Old English gæd "fellowship, companionship", Dutch gaderen "to gather" and gade "spouse", and German Gatte "husband". The Germanic languages came by its word from PIE ghedh-/ghodh- "to unite, join". The change of the pronunciation (and spelling) from [d] to [dh] occurred in the 16th century when Old English fæder became father. The prefix here comes from PIE per- "forward, in front of", which produced German für, English for and fore, and Danish for "for" and før "before". We can find the remnants of this PIE word all around the IE languages: Greek peri "around, about", Russian pere- "around, re-", Lithuanian per "through", German vor "before, in front of". (For recommending this surprising Good Word, we are indebted to Professor Kyu Ho Youm of the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon, who has been a contributor since 2005.)

Dr. Goodword,

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