• ballot •
bæ-lêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A sheet of paper with a list of candidates or issues used in voting. 2. The act or method of voting.
Notes: Today citizens of the United States are flocking to the polls to cast their ballots (ballots are cast) for its next president. As we do so, we can use the noun ballot as an intransitive verb with the preposition for or on: to ballot for a new president or ballot on the issue at hand. A person who ballots is a balloter or a balloteer.
In Play: Problems with a particular kind of ballot led to a questionable decision in the 2000 US presidential election: "Everyone hopes that all the Florida butterfly ballots will have fluttered away to Chad by now." However, this is a word that can elbow itself into our everyday conversations: "Your mother and I took a family ballot and decided to have spinach and broccoli for dinner, not pizza. (I get two votes since I am in charge of dinner tonight.)"
Word History: Today's Good Word came from French ballotte "small ball", especially one used in voting in the days when a person dropped balls into designated urns to vote. French seems to have borrowed this word from a dialect of Italian: ballotta "small ball", diminutive of balla "ball" (palla in standard Italian). The Italians clearly borrowed this word from German Ball, which is the same in English and other Germanic languages. Ball itself is related to bellows and blow via the association of blowing something up and making it round. We find B and L in many words referring to things round or roundish, such as bowl and balloon. While not all fools are round, the word fool originated in the Latin word follis "bellows", and started out referring to a windbag. The root of follis shares its source with ball.
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