• kith •
kith • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Friends and acquaintances.
Notes: Kith is likely obsolete given the fact that the phrase it most commonly occurs in, kith and kin, has been replaced by folk etymology with kissin' kin. Folk etymology converts elements it doesn't recognize into recognizable ones. This means that the expression "kith and" (usually pronounced "kith 'n") is not recognized by most speakers of English. However, it is a lovely, very old, authentic English word and, the older I get, the more I appreciate age in all things.
In Play: First, here is how today's word works in the idiomatic expression in which it most widely appears today: "Quincy felt much more at ease among his kith and kin than among people he barely knew." However, if we are going to resuscitate it, we will have to say things like, "Franklin isn't in the family, but I consider him close kith none the less."
Word History: In Old English, today's Good Word was cyththu "kinship, knowledge, acquaintance", a noun derived from cyth "known", the past participle of cunnan "to know", with the help of the suffix -thu, which today is -th in a few words like width, health, and breadth. Cuth, too, lives on today in couth, which originally meant "in the know", though anyone in the know today knows that we only use this word in the now orphan negative uncouth. The first person singular of cunnan today is the auxiliary verb can. It comes from the same source as know and German kennen "to know". (Today's Good Word was suggested by a new kith of ours, Donald Schark, to whom we tip our collective hat in gratitude.)
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