Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-rayn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. To officially accuse someone of a crime before a court of law. 2. To accuse, to indict, as to arraign a generation for lack of moral character.

Notes: This is a rather funny word with far too many letters, resulting from our borrowing it from French (see Word History) and pronouncing it the same way. The noun, used widely in English-speaking courts, is arraignment. There is also a rarely used personal noun, arraigner, which is used simply to mean "accuser", and is not found in the legal jargon.

In Play: This word is most widely used in court when a suspected criminal is brought before the court to plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty': "Louis Morales was arraigned for attempted robbery the same day he tried to hold up the donut shop next to the police station." Don't forget, however, that this word is a perfect substitute for accuse should you tire of repeating it: "Fenwick is constantly arraigned by his wife for his neglect of her feelings."

Word History: English borrowed this word from Old French araisnier, the descendant of Vulgar Latin adrationare "to call to account", made up of ad "to(ward)" + ratio(n) "account" + are, a verbal suffix. Why the ancients decided to replace the S with a G is a mystery, though words were occasionally made to look 'Frenchier' or 'Greekier' in times past (rhyme was originally rime, as in Rime of the Ancient Mariner). Ratio(n) went on to become raison "reason" in French, which English turned into reason. Ratio (genitive rationis) is a noun derived from ratus, the past participle of reri "to consider, think". This verb came to Latin from the same Proto-Indo-European word arê- "to fit together", which also turned up as arm and army in English. (We can arraign Robert Eichberg on the charge of suggesting today's Good Word, but then we must thank him for doing us the favor.)

Dr. Goodword,

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