• dreadnought •
dred-nawt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A thick-plated battleship introduced in the early 20th century armed with all large-caliber guns. 2. A fearless person. 3. (Rarely used) A coat of thick woolen cloth for stormy weather.
Notes: The word nought is seldom used in the US today, so dreadnought is no longer recognized as a compound of two valid words. Nought (or naught) "nothing" is common in the UK, so the two components of today's Good Word are more recognizable, keeping it alive in the English-speaking world.
In Play: The dreadnought ships were built from 1906 through WWI. The Battle of Jutland, known as 'The Clash of the Dreadnoughts', in 1916 between German and British navies was the greatest naval battle in history. It ended in a stand-off. However, the word keeps popping up, used as a synonym for unstoppable, even referring to humans: "Hillary Clinton, a dreadnought of a politician, was expected to mount a juggernaut to the Democratic nomination."
Word History: Today's word is dreadnought "a fear-nothing", a compound comprising dread + nought. It was the name of the first dreadnought which was commonized as similar ships were built later on. Dread is an aphetic shortening of Old English adreadan "advised against, fear", itself a reduction of on- "against" + rædan "to advise". Rædan is a distant cousin of German raten "to advise". Rædan went on to become read in English. Nought in Old English was na "no" + wiht "person, thing". When it didn't combine with na-, wiht went on to become whit, as 'I don't care a whit about that.' (William Hupy has become a dreadnought contributor of suggestions for Good Words as exceptional as today's.)
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