• joust •
jawst • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive
Meaning: 1. To tilt in a medieval tournament, to ride horses in opposite directions, while attempting to dismount an opponent with a lance (usually knights did this). 2. To jockey for position or engage in verbal combat with one or more other persons.
Notes: This word has another spelling, just, listed in the American Heritage and Oxford English dictionaries as current. The spelling above is by far the most widespread. A person who jousts is a jouster and the activity is called jousting.
In Play: The usual sense of today's Good Word arises when two or more people are in competition for something: "Lance Knight and his wife jousted with their children for control of the television set." The only situation where the original sense of today's word is used is in the movie industry: "Several stunt men were jousting for the roles of knights in the jousting scenes of the movie."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Old French joster "to joust, tilt", from a presumed Vulgar (Street) Latin word iuxtare "to approach, come together, meet". The original sense was "to be next to", because iuxtare is based on iuxta "beside, near", related to iungere "join together". We can see iuxta in its original sense in the English borrowing juxtapose. However, the Proto-Indo-European root, yeug- "to join", can also be seen in iugular from Latin iugulum "collarbone", diminutive of iugum "yoke". English 'acquired' this word for its phrase jugular vein. In fact, English yoke is the English result of the same PIE root devolving, unborrowed, through its Germanic family. (Let's all now thank Shirley Farmer for her recommendation of today's Good Word—without any jousting about.)
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