Printable Version
Pronunciation: gah-sip Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Passing on rumors or the rumors themselves; hearsay, unreliable stories of questionable origin, tattling that spreads. 2. Someone who passes on rumors. 3. (British) A godparent.

Notes: Since it has a slightly negative connotation, today's Good Word is usually associated with women, though male gossips are not unheard-of. It comes with an adjective, gossipy, which opens the door for gossipiness.

In Play: I have heard that office gossip is about 90% reliable, though this might be just gossip: "Have you heard the latest gossip about Lucinda Head? Well, she apparently was seen checking into a motel with Phil Anders!" This would be said, of course, in a whisper with the hand shielding the mouth in case a lip-reader was eavesdropping.

Word History: This Good Word has come a long way. It began its life in Old English as a compound noun, godsibb "godparent", from God + sibb "relative", also found in sibling. The meaning had expanded by Middle English to include any familiar acquaintance, especially to woman friends invited to attend a birth. By the 1560s its meaning had been extended a bit further to include anyone engaging in idle talk, in other words, a gossip. Finally, by 1811 it shifted to the talk of gossips itself. Similar words can be found in Old Norse guðsifja "to talk idly." (We hasten to thank Kathleen McCune now of Sweden who, though no gossip herself, did share today's Good Word with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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