• college •
kah-lij • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An independent institution of higher learning (above high school) or one incorporated into a university, usually granting BA or BA degrees, though some offer the MA and MS degrees, too. 2. An official body of persons united by common purpose, as an electoral college, a college of surgeons, or the college of cardinals.
Notes: Today's contributor wanted to know the relation between an educational college and an electoral college. Well, it isn't collegiality, though some members of both types of college may be collegial. Actually, the second sense of today's Good Word covers the first. Both comprise a group of colleagues, official in some sense, with a set purpose. Collegians are members of the first type of college. The adjective with that same meaning is collegiate.
In Play: College has an impact on all who succeed in acquiring a diploma: "College really changed my life: it left me broke." The recent retirement of Pope Benedict XVI will make it necessary to convene the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope. There is a growing sentiment that the United States should eliminate its electoral college in favor of a popular vote.
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from Old French in exactly the state in which it was found: college "collegiate body". Old French inherited the word from Latin collegium "society, guild" from college "colleague", so the word originally meant "an association of colleagues". Colleague is someone you are in league with (col-) to accomplish a specific set of goals. This word is actually built on the Latin prefix col- "(together) with" + lex, legis "law", someone who was together with others by law, hence the "official" in our definition. Despite the similarity of this lex and the one in lexical they are not obviously related. In lexical derivations involving the other lex, the case form leg- seems to be preferred, because we see it in legislate, legal, and several other words having to do with law. (Today's Good Word was suggested by Vicki Bauer, a newly discovered colleague, in league with us in the discovery of interesting words.)