Printable Version
Pronunciation: mis-chê-vês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Troublesome, playfully naughty, prankish. 2. Causing intentional insult, harm or injury, as mischievous interference.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the adjective of mischief, another example of F becoming V before a suffix containing an S (see also wife : wives, knife : knives). Look out for the pronunciation: the accent remains always on the first syllable. It falls on the same syllable in the adjective as it does in the noun from which mischievous is derived, mischief [mis-chif]. Do not let the I slip around behind the CH and add an additional syllable (NOT mischevious). Also, avoid the noun mischievousness; it requires four syllables to say what you can say in two with the original noun mischief.

In Play: Mischief is generally the domain of children: "When a mischievous little boy sitting behind her tied knots in Winnie's hair, she later dropped a lizard down the neck of his shirt." Since it is difficult to draw the line between childhood and adulthood, we sometimes see it in adults: "Raoul smiled mischievously when the boss asked who had put the goldfish in the water cooler."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French meschief "misfortune", the noun from meschever "to end badly". This verb is made up of mes- (later mis-) "badly" + chever "to come to an end, occur". If this word seems to contain chief, that is because it does. French chever was derived from Vulgar (Street) Latin capare "to come to a head" from the noun caput "head". The Latin root is visible in a host of English borrowings, including capital, (de)capitate, capo, the head of Mafia family, borrowed a little later. French converted this word into chief, chef, and chapitre, borrowed by English as chapter. (We are very happy that Robyn E. Rishe uses her head to come up with delightful suggestions like today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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