Printable Version
Pronunciation: for-fend Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. Prohibit, forbid. 2. Avert, ward off, fend off, protect from.

Notes: Here is a word that is used less often than it ought to be. I ran across it in the conversations that are now taking place in the Alpha Agora. A friend from Australia tells me her sisters use it, and it probably "entered the family vocabulary via our convent school education". In the US it is sometimes spelled with a spare E on the prefix, forefend. It is used most often in the exclamation, "Heaven forfend!", where Americans would say, "Heaven forbid!"

In Play: This word is most often encountered in interjections, such as 'Heaven forfend' or 'Saints forfend', so let's start with an example of this: "Heaven forfend that Marian Kine and William Arami should ever meet!" However, this is not the only context in which this Good Word may be used in: "Flossie gave her sister some concoction that she whipped up in her kitchen that was supposed to forfend the flu, but it made hair sprout in her ears."

Word History: Today's Good Word comprises a prefix for(e)- "exclusion, warding off" + fend "ward off, defend, keep at bay", as in, "Let him fend for himself." Fend apparently entered the English language as defend, but underwent 'apheresis', the gradual loss of one or more unaccented sounds or letters at the beginning of a word, like 'possum and 'gator in some dialects of present-day English. In Middle English it was defenden from Latin defendere "to ward off", made up of de- "(away) from" + fendere "hit, beat". Latin inherited the word from Proto-Indo-European gwhen- "to hit, kill". Old Norse converted the PIE root into gunnr "war", which English then borrowed as gun. (Heaven forefend we should forget to thank Patricia Tancred somewhere out there in Australia for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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