Printable Version
Pronunciation: bik-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To petulantly quarrel over trivialities, wrangle. 2. To mildly quarrel, to slightly disagree verbally.

Notes: Here is a substitute for quarrel when you have in mind a light quarrel. In fact, long ago before television, there was a Sunday comedy series on radio called "The Bickertons" whose bickering was funny. It comes with an adjective, bickerful, and two nouns, a personal one, bickerer, and a rarely used action noun, bickerment. We can also use the present participle, bickering, for the adjective and action noun.

In Play: Better be bitter than to bicker: "I think this office meeting should focus on the memorial for our dear departed colleague rather than bickering over who is getting her assigned parking space." Bickering usually overlooks more important issues: "We don't want to bicker over who will use the fire hose when the building's on fire."

Word History: Today's Good Word was bickeren "to attack" in Middle English, borrowed from Middle Duch bicken "to attack, thrust, stab" + -er, a frequentative suffix, as in blabber, chatter, and patter. Middle Dutch created its verb from Proto-Germanic bikhana "to attack, hack, stab", created from PIE bhe(n)g-/bho(n)g- "to break, smash", source also of Sanskrit babhanja "break, rupture", Lithuanian banga "wave, breaker", Latvian bungas "drum", Irish bain "reap, pick", Welsh bigitan "to bicker", Dutch bonken "pounding, knocking", and English bang "to strike, knock, hit". (Let's not bicker over how we are going to thank our old friend Lew Jury for suggesting today's rather antagonistic Good Word and just do it.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!