• naughty •
naw-dee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Slightly morally bad, forgivably bad, misbehaving.
Notes: Naughty refers today only to breaking rules and is used mostly in referring to children who misbehave. It also occurs humorously, as eating ice cream might be naughty if you are on a diet. Criminals are far, far worse than naughty. You may still compare this word the old-fashioned way: naughtier and naughtiest. Notice you change the Y to I, as you do in creating the noun, naughtiness.
In Play: Today's Good Word is a substitute for bad when you are joking: "Grace, you are a naughty girl: you are supposed to be on a diet yet here are two—count them, two—quarts of chocolate fudge ice cream in your freezer." A serious message may be hidden in this word, though: "You naughty boys shouldn't go to that nice, new restaurant without taking your wives along."
Word History: Today's Good Word originally referred to anything bad: naughty water, naughty food, naughty weather. As bad and evil assumed these meanings, its sense was attenuated. It comes from naught "nothing", which was nawiht in Old English. Nawiht is composed of na "no" + wiht "thing". Na is a variant of no. Wiht went on to become whit, as in not to care a whit (small amount) for something. The same compound in Old German was niwiht, which evolved into Modern German nichts "nothing". How is nichts pronounced? Well, very much like nix, an English copy of nichts that has been rattling around English since the end of the 19th century. (Chuck Lee would have been naughty had he kept today's Good Word all to himself, so we have to thank him for pointing out its good qualities.)
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