Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahm-prê-mæt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Compromising material, material that could be used for extortion because it could damage someone's reputation.

Notes: This word has made it into very few dictionaries, but it is creeping into journalese and pops up occasionally in the mainstream media. Merriam-Webster doesn't include the word but offers an article about why it isn't included. It has no derivational family yet.

In Play: This word comes up in 2018 as an explanation of the unexpectedly close relationship between Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. However, this word has applications around the house: "I do pretty much what my wife tells me to do because, after 40 years of marriage, she had a lot of kompromat on me."

Word History: This is an English copy of Russian Cold War slang kompromat, a blend of komprometrujushchij material "compromising material". Since both the Russian and English words for compromise come from the same source, let's examine the English version. Compromise was borrowed from Late Latin compromissus, the past participle of compromittere "to make a mutual promise". Compromittere is a double derivation comprising com- "(together) with" + promittere "send forth; promise". The past participle of this word is the origin of English promise. Promittere, in its turn, is made up of pro "before" + mittere "to send". The noun from mittere was mission(n) "sending forth", which English also borrowed for its mission. (Let's all now thank Sue Gold of Westtown School, a frequent contributor of intriguing Good Words like today's for many years.)

Dr. Goodword,

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