Printable Version
Pronunciation: nahn-shê-lahnt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Casually indifferent, calm, relaxed, cool.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a genuine orphan negative, a negative word beginning with ne- or non- with no corresponding word with a positive meaning. It comes with an adverb, nonchalantly, and a noun, nonchalance, but it has no corresponding word meaning "excited, involved" or "angry".

In Play: Nonchalant implies a relaxed indifference to whatever is being talked about: "In the summer Maude Lynn Dresser shifts her wardrobe to a nonchalant, beachy look—a bohemian fashion." However, we may sometimes omit the "indifference" in this definition: "His son reflected a nonchalant mastery of mathematics, a subject he had struggled with throughout his education."

Word History: This word was not always a lexical orphan. It was borrowed from Old French nonchalant, the present participle of nonchaloir "to be unconcerned", where it was a normal negation of the verb chaloir "to cause concern to". Chaloir descended from Latin calere "to be warm or angry". Latin acquired the word from its ancestor, Proto-Indo-European, specifically, the word kelê- "warm". The noun from the Latin verb was calor "heat", the basis for calorie, used for the measure of body heat. The Old English word for "warm" was hleow, the remnants of which appear in lukewarm. The English-from-French borrowing chauffeur, from Old French chaufer "to warm", is a drastic reduction of Latin calefacere "to make warm". Chauffeur originally meant "stoker" in the days of the Stanley Steamer.

Dr. Goodword,

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