prê-rah-gê-tiv • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An exclusive right to choose or make a decision that derives from a position or social status. 2. Any special privilege that derives from social status, such as derives from an office, position in an organization, or social class.
Notes: Today's Good Word is usually (mis)pronounced perogative, as a result of a process called metathesis, whereby the sounds [r] and [ê] switch places with each other. You hear it when words like different, veteran, prescription are pronounced [difernt], [vetern], [perscription], common across the southern US states. The pronunciation of these words, however, does not affect the spelling, so the first syllable in prerogative is always spelled P-R-E.
In Play: Prerogatives usually come with positions or offices in organizations, no matter how informal they might be: "In our family mom has the prerogative to ride beside the driver in the car." However, today's word applies to any right that derives from any kind of social status: "A prerogative of retirement is getting out of bed in the morning whenever you want to."
Word History: This Good Word originated in Latin praerogatus, the past participle of the Latin verb, praerogare "to ask for an opinion". This word is made up of prae "before, in front of" + rogare "to ask". The root of the Latin verb meaning "to ask", rog-, comes from an ancient word rog- "to be straight, to lead, to rule". This root had a variant, reg-, that appears in Latin regula "a straight wooden rod, a principle." Regula today in Portuguese is regra, in Spanish regla, in Italian regola, and in French règle. Not only do we see this word in our regular and regulate, but regula is the original form of the English word rule.
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