• lariat •
læ-ri-êt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Lasso, a long rope with a loose noose on the end. 2. Rope without a noose for tethering a horse or mule.
Notes: Today's word is associated with cowboys, who use lariats to lasso heifers for branding, in rodeos, or just twirl them making the noose expand. It may be used as a verb, though lasso is used more often this way. Otherwise, it is a lexical orphan with derivational family.
In Play: Twirling a lariat so that the noose widens to form a circle is quite a trick: "Buck Shott always likes to show off in front of girls by twirling his lariat." Lariats have other uses besides twirling: "He learned how to handle a lariat lassoing calves in the local rodeos."
Word History: Today's Good Word is the English version of Spanish la reata "the rope", where la = the and reata = rope. Reata is the countable noun from reatar "to retie", comprising re- "again, over" + atar "to tie". Atar was inherited from Latin aptare "to fit, adapt, adjust", based on aptus, the past participle of apere "to tie, fasten, attach". La, like the same words in French and Italian, derived from Latin illa "that (feminine), yonder, she", passed down from PIE al- "yonder, beyond". English else, Greek allos "other", and Sanskrit arana- "foreign" derive from the same word (all PIE Ls became Rs in Sanskrit). Another English word which started out as a Spanish phrase is alligator, the English rendition of Spanish el lagarto "the lizard, alligator". Apere is what Latin made of PIE ap- "to grasp, take", source also of Sanskrit apnoti "reaches, achieves" and Greek aptein "to fasten, attach". (Today's lovely Good Word was suggested by Arnaldo Mandel, a rather prolific newcomer.)
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