Printable Version
Pronunciation: mæl-ê-droyt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Inept, clumsy, awkward, bungling.

Notes: Today's word has a purely English adverb, maladroitly, and an English noun, maladroitness. Mal- is a pretty active prefix in English, as indicated by maladjusted, malcontent, and malfunction.

In Play: Maladroit may be applied locally: "Lucinda Head is a socially maladroit young lady who has much to learn about cocktail parties." It may also be applied at a higher level: "The president's maladroit financial policies have landed this company in big trouble with our customers."

Word History: This word, again, was borrowed from French maladroit "clumsy, ham-fisted", comprising mal "badly" + adroit "dexterous, clever". Mal descended from Latin male "badly", the adverbial form of malus "bad, sick" from PIE mel-/mol- "false, bad, wrong". We find this stem in various English borrowings, such as malice, malady, malefactor, and dismal. French adroit is a combination of Old French "to(ward)" (from Latin ad "[up] to") + droit "right, straight", all that's left of Latin directus "right, straight". Directus is the past participle of dirigere "to straighten, lead", made up of dis- "apart" + regere "to lead straight, direct, rule". The root of regere comes from the same source as Latin rex "king" and regula "straight stick, ruler", which came through Old French riule and ended up in English as the noun and verb rule.

Dr. Goodword,

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