Printable Version
Pronunciation: bee-huv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: No, this isn't what the blacksmith does. In fact, this word has two meanings completely unrelated to trotters. 1. To be appropriate for, to oblige, to morally require. 2. To benefit, to be beneficial.

Notes: Today's Good Word is used mostly in a crystallized phrase, "It behooves X to . . . ." In this respect, it resembles a near synonym, incumbent, which is used almost exclusively in the phrase "It is incumbent upon X to . . . ." So, if we are behooved to improve our speech as much as possible, it is incumbent upon us to do so, as well. Anything behooveful is beneficial, as honesty is behooveful in most cases. In parts of Britain, you have the option of ignoring one of the Os and say behove.

In Play: At this point, it behooves me to offer a few examples of today's word: "We are all behooved to behave rationally now that Mr. Chance has passed away and devise a fair way to determine who gets his parking space." That is, it is incumbent on everyone to behave rationally. It would seem to behoove most teenagers, however, to behave as rebelliously as possible.

Word History: Today's word is an English original from Old English behofian from a Germanic compound bi-hof "obligation." The original root meant "grasp, seize", similar to the ligature (binding) implied in the word obligation. In the Germanic languages it went on to indicate possession in such words as have. In Latin it appears in capere "to seize". This verb's past participle, captus, underlies English capture and captive. In Old French this verb became cachier "to chase", a verb English reworked into catch. (It now behooves us all to thank Loren Baldwin for suggesting today's rather unusual Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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