• gadabout •
gæd-ê-bawt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Someone who gads about, a wanderer, someone who roves about idly out of curiosity, often spreading rumor and gossip in their wake.
Notes: Today's word comes from the phrase "to gad about", where gad itself has come to mean "to wander from place to place without a particular destination". It is a perfectly guileless word, spelled and pronounced exactly as it should be.
In Play: Gadabouts are basically people who cannot stay at home for long periods, who have to move about: "Oprah who? I'm afraid I'm an incorrigible gadabout who doesn't spend time watching TV." Some gadabouts, however, gallivant around spreading rumors, so this word makes a less jarring alternative to gossip: "I heard from the town gadabout, Miles Overland, that Willy Leaver isn't speaking to his wife."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a jocular turn of phrase based on the facetious verb gad, the origins of which are unclear. The best surmise is that it is a reduction of the phrase, "to flit about like a gadfly". Gadflies are known for their painful, burning bites. Human gadflies are people who annoy and get under our skins. Gad came from Old Norse gadd-r "spike, nail" from the times when the Vikings were gadflies along the coast of England.
Old English ymbutan "round about" became abutan, which ended up about in Modern English. Ymbutan combined ymbe "around" + utan "outside", from ut "out". Ymbe descended from PIE ambhi- "around, on both sides", found in Sanskrit abhi "around", Latin ambi "around, both sides", Greek ampho "both". It was worn down to Welsh am "about, for", Irish im- "circum-", Dutch om "around, about" and German um "around, about" in all these languages. (Today we are grateful to Tonia Smith-Kalouria, author of the pun-filled collection of gadabout verse Aerobic Poetry, for suggesting today's rather eccentric Good Word.)
Come visit our website at <http://www.alphadictionary.com> for more Good Words and other language resources!