Printable Version
Pronunciation: mis-bi-gaht-ên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Contemptible, despicable, pathetic, disgraceful. 2. Ill-conceived, designed, or planned. 3. Ill-born, illegitimate, of disreputable origin.

Notes: Misbegotten is the past participle of a forgotten verb, misbeget "to beget wrongly, badly or unlawfully", where beget means "to sire" or "to create, grow out of". Few Americans currently use the long past participle, gotten, anymore, using the past tense form got, instead. So, the loss of misbeget and gotten leaves today's word in limbo.

In Play: The original meaning of misbegotten was "ill-born, illegitimate", but over the years that meaning has receded before the implications of bastardry, such as ill-planned: "I think the new direction of the company misbegotten no matter how many were involved in its creation." Or just bad in general: "Whoever the planners were, they were all misbegotten lackeys of the new president."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the past participle of misbeget "beget wrongly or unlawfully" in the disguise of an adjective. Misbeget is a combination of mis- "wrongly, badly" + beget "to sire". This word may be reduced to be- "cause, make" + get, a word with 36 different meanings, one of which is "to bring about, cause". The word get came through English's Germanic ancestors from PIE ghe(n)d- "to take, seize" with a Fickle N. English borrowed the word from Old Norse (Viking) geta "to get, obtain". In Latin the [gh] became the [h] in such words as prehensus "grasped, held", underlying the English borrowing prehensile. The same verb's noun, prehension(n) was reduced by French to prison, which English borrowed forthwith.

Dr. Goodword,

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