• guile •
gail • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: Sly or crafty intelligence, cunning, artfulness.
Notes: This noun comes with a host of derivations. The positive adjective is guileful, with its noun, guilefulness. The negative adjective is guileless and its noun is guilelessness. The verb, beguile, means "to deceive, to trick with guile or mesmerization", and it provides a personal noun beguiler "a trickster". Guilery is still around in the sense of "the tricks of a beguiler".
In Play: This word means "sly intelligence", though usually with a rather insidious connotation: "Floyd got into one of the top universities in the country with a mediocre high school record and lots of guile." In sports it is frequently used with guts: "Hardy Batton is short, but he plays with guile and guts and does OK."
Word History: Today's Good Word came from Old French guile "deceit, fraud, trickery", probably borrowed from Old English wil "wile". Since Old French had no [w] sound, it would have used the nearest sound to [w], [gw], spelled GU, as it did when ward was borrowed as guard, and warranty as guarantie. (Notice English borrowed both words back from French. Cheeky, no?) Germanic source of Old English wil was a suffixed form of Proto-Germanic wih-, wih-l-. Wih- was also source of Old English wig "idol", wicca, witch and German weihen "to consecrate, sanctify". All these came from the presumable PIE word, weik- "sanctify, consecrate".
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