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Pronunciation: jet-ee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A natural promontory, land projecting out into water. 2. A pier or dock projecting into the water. 3. A projection from a building, especially from an upper story, a cantilever. 4. A breakwater designed to defend a harbor.

Notes: This word comes from the verb jet "to project forward, to protrude". It is the root of jettison "to throw overboard" and the thing thrown overboard, jetsam. This word is most frequently heard in the phrase flotsam and jetsam. However, items that are thrown overboard and float are flotsam. Jetsam is expected to sink to the bottom, perhaps to wash ashore later. See the connection with the sense of throwing in the Word History.

In Play: Let us first look at the nature of a natural jetty: "The state of Florida is the most prominent natural jetty in the United States." Jetty is most widely used in the US to distinguish breakwaters from piers: "Randy had a few too many drinks on his boat and crashed into the jetty as he entered the harbor." Of course, we should not forget the architectural usage: "The jetty on Henderson's house allowed him to run a driveway beneath it and bring the second floor up to his property line."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Old French jetee "something thrown out, a projection", the feminine past participle of jeter "to throw". Old French inherited this word from Vulgar (Street) Latin iectare, an alteration of Classical Latin iactare "to throw". There are many words English borrowed from Latin with this root: subject, inject, eject, interject. English made jut out of the same Old French word, jetee, though it is not clear how it did this. (We wish Anthony Arlidge safe harbors always for his suggestion of this word, whether protected by a jetty or not.)

Dr. Goodword,

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