Printable Version
Pronunciation: pre-zê-dênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A person elected or appointed to preside over an organization, the highest ranking member of a management team, as 'the president of the New York Stock Exchange'. 2. The chief officer of the executive branch of a government or similar political organization, such as 'the president of the United States'.

Notes: Do keep in mind that prez is often used as an abbreviation of today's Good Word, because the S in the full word is pronounced [z]. A more modern acronym for the US president is POTUS. The adjective is presidential and the office that a president holds is a presidency.

In Play: Mount RushmoreOriginally, Lincoln's birthday was celebrated on February 12 and Washington's birthday, on February 22. In 1968, however, legislation was passed that combined the two holidays into one to be celebrated on the 3rd weekend of February. The intent was to reduce the number of holidays in February and give workers a 3-day break from work. The result is that the holiday carries little meaning for most Americans: "The exchange student very proudly gave Galen a Presidents Day gift that triggered snickering among his friends."

Word History: Today's word, of course, is the French version of Latin praesiden(t)s "presiding", the present participle of praesidere "to preside", based on prae "before" + sedere "to sit". If you see a root in this verb that reminds you of English set or sit, you have a good eye for these things: both these words come from the same original root, PIE sed- "to sit". Almost all Indo-European languages have a reflex of that root: German sitzen "to sit (down)", Russian sedet' "to sit", and Italian sedersi "to sit (down)". But as PIE broke up into the various Indo-European languages, the meaning of this word spread to other senses, like "set out" (plants), which turned up in Russian sad "garden" and Czech sad "orchard". Another sense it moved to is "settling, calm" as in Latin sedativus "calming", whence English sedative.

Dr. Goodword,

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