• cronyism •
kro-ni-iz-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Favoritism in hiring shown to friends without consideration of their qualifications.
Notes: We recently explored nepotism, favored treatment to relatives in hiring, which led Paul Ogden to think we should spread our net to other types of favoritism. Despite its wide usage, cronyism is a lexical orphan. No one has ventured the courage thus far to try even cronyist, so you won't find this word in any dictionary.
In Play: Cronyism is particularly noticeable at the highest levels of corporations: "The exorbitantly high salaries of corporate executives in the US are the result of rampant cronyism among boards and salary committees." But let's not leave out politics: "Cronyism in Washington shows up in the high percentage of senators and congressmen who become lobbyists when they retire."
Word History: Today's Good Word, of course, comes from the noun crony. It was originally spelled chrony in Samuel Pepys Diary of 1665 with an H no longer used. In the mid 17th century this word was college slang. Its spelling suggests that it might have been taken from Greek chronos "time", associated with the old in old friend. It also shares affinities with crone "ugly old woman", but no evidence supports this connection, either. Crone comes from Old French carogne "carrion", a word based on Latin caro, carn- "flesh", found in carnivorous "flesh-eating" and chili con carne, which means "chili with meat" in Spanish. (We are happy that Paul Ogden, one of the Good Word editors, suggested today's word even if our acceptance of the suggestion does smack a bit of cronyism.)
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