Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-dait Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To legally charge with a crime, usually by a district attorney as the result of a grand jury hearing. 2. To accuse, blame for something you dislike: a fault, mistake, or error.

Notes: Here is a word dominating the news in 2023. It is the perfect example of the spelling problem mentioned by Bernard Shaw, a supporter of the attempts at spelling reforms in the early 19th century. The action noun is indictment, the personal noun is indicter, and the passive noun is indictee.

In Play: This word has a specific sense in the judicial system: "The company president was indicted for using insider information in his stock trades." But it is perfectly happy outside the legal world: "The president was indicted by the stockholders for the collapse of the price of the company stock."

Word History: This word has assumed several spellings in its history, including endite, indite, and endight. It was borrowed from Anglo-French enditer "to indict, charge, accuse" in the 13th century and was most often spelled as it was pronounced until the 17th century, when lawyers began spelling it like its Medieval Latin ancestor indictare "to proclaim, declare", from Classical Latin indicere "to declare, proclaim, publish". Unfortunately, they forgot to change the pronunciation. Indicere is composed of in "in" + dicere "to say, state, assert". Latin made up this word out of PIE en "in" + deik- "to show, pronounce solemnly". Deik- shows up in Sanskrit disati "shows, points at", Greek deiknymi "point out, show", German zeigen "to show", and English teach. Latin also created index (indeks) "an informer, someone who points things out" from the same combination of PIE en + dict. (Now much gratitude to Great Grandmaster Jeremy Busch, editor of this series, keeper of the Alpha Agora, and contributor of today's highly topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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