• covet •
kê-vet • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To greatly desire. 2. To unnaturally envy someone for something they have.
Notes: This Good Word came to English with its whole family. The adjective is covetous and the adverb, covetously. The past participle is used so independently, that we might consider it another adjective when we use expressions like the coveted award. A gentler adjective with the same meaning is covetable, e.g. 'The presidency of Iraq is hardly a covetable position.' The noun is covetousness.
In Play: To envy someone's possessions is acceptable, but to covet them borders on evil, "Eva Brick positively covets all the chocolates her friend, Prudence, received on Valentine's Day." Covetousness is prohibited by the Bible. Exodus 20:17 tells us, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's."
Word History: Today's is another word snitched when French wasn't looking. Middle English converted Old French coveitier to coveiten "to covet", which mellowed into the current word. Coveitier was a verb based on the noun covitie "desire", an extensively polished form of Latin cupiditas, the nominal form of cupidus "desirous". Yes, covet and Cupid fell from the same lexical family tree. The original PIE root was something like kup- "cook, boil, seethe", which referred to boiling of food or the roiling of emotions. In Greek it emerged as kapnos "smoke" (associated with an older form of cooking) and in Russian as kopot' "soot". The Latin root, seen in cupidus, comes from the metaphorical sense of the original root.
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