de-rê-gayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive, intransitive
Meaning: 1. [Intransitive, used with from] To detract, to lessen, to diminish, take away from, as a mistake that derogated from the effectiveness of the report or a law that derogates from previously held rights. 2. [Transitive] To disparage, deprecate, abase, or belittle, as to derogate the character of a respected colleague.
Notes: The verb we are examining today is less widely used than the adjective, derogatory, derived from it. When we say something derogatory about a person, we derogate him or her. You may also use the adjective derogative in the same service. A person who makes derogatory claims about others is, of course, a derogator.
In Play: In its intransitive sense, today's word means broadly "to take away from" as in: "Hortense, I don't think that the fact that you were not wearing earrings will derogate from your diving into the frozen pond to rescue a drowning child." In its transitive sense, it indicates a lack of respect and criticism: "Farnsworth would derogate Mother Teresa if he thought she was a threat to his job."
Word History: This Good Word came to English from the past participle, derogatus, of the Latin verb derogare "to disparage, dishonor". made up of de- "from" + rogare "to ask". The root rog- in rogare is rather mysterious. Structurally, it seems related to our old Proto-Indo-European friend, *rog-/reg- "straight", found in rex, regis "king" and regere "to rule". Semantically, however, it is more closely related to precor "to ask", which comes from the same root as Sanskrit prac- "to ask" and German fragen "to ask". This suggests that rogare might have had an ancestor progare which lost its initial P. However, Latin verbs were seldom so careless. (We certainly wouldn't want to derogate in any way from Christ Stewart's and Susan Lister's contribution to our series by suggesting that we run derogate as one of our Good Words.)
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