Printable Version
Pronunciation: for-sayk, fêr-sayk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: Abandon, desert, leave behind, turn away from—usually implying forever.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a strong verb, which is to say, an irregular one. The past tense is forsook, and the past participle is forsaken. The past participle can also function as an adjective, as in forsaken land or forsaken building. This word has an adverb, forsakenly, and a noun, forsakenness.

In Play: This word usually carries the sense of complete abandonment: "Barnaby Bailey forsook the circus for politics. He was forsaken by all his friends upon doing so." The object of today's word may be concrete or abstract: "Justine found that the rigid office procedures forced her to forsake her usual efficiency."

Word History: Today's Good Word is composed of for + sake originally "seek". The meaning of for is elusive at best, but one of its senses in the past was "neglecting, abstaining", seen in forgo and forbear. Thus the original meaning must have been something like "abstain, neglect to seek". Sake in Middle English meant "dispute, guilt", from Old English sacu "legal action, purpose", that which is sought after. This word is related to Old English secan "to seek". English ransack and ramshackle are also related. Middle English ransaken was borrowed from Old Norse rannsaka "to search a house, to pillage", based on rann "house" + saka "to search, seek". Ramshackle refers to the condition of a house after being searched by the Old Norse Vikings. (Let us not forsake William Hupy, but thank him vigorously for his suggestion of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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