Printable Version
Pronunciation: for-bid Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Prohibit, proscribe, deny, to command against (antonym permit). 2. To prevent, preclude (antonym allow).

Notes: Here is a word that is an oddity in form and history. Its past tense is either forbade or forbad and the past participle is forbidden. The rarely used action noun forbiddance and personal noun forbidder are still available to anyone so daring as to use them.

In Play: The first sense of this word may be heard in expressions like this: "My mom forbids all discussion of politics at the dinner table." The second sense may be heard in sentences like this: "Modesty never forbad Oscar from inviting himself to dinner at our house."

Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of for- "away, opposite, against" + bid "to wish", as 'to bid someone farewell'. It came along a long time ago when English prefix for- had a meaning antonymic to the one it has today, for it comes from the same source, PIE per-/por- "forward, before, in front of". The semantic switch occurred in Proto-Germanic for we find the same sense in German verboten "forbidden", Dutch verbieden "to forbid" and Swedish förbjuda "to forbid". In Old English today's word was forbeodan. Beodan came via Old Germanic ancestors from PIE bheudh- "be awake, aware". We see its remains in Sanskrit bõdhati "awakens", Welsh bodd "consent, yes", Cornish bodh "will, volition", Russian budit' "to awaken" and bljudat' "observe", and Lithuanian budėti "to watch". (Now let's thank our long-time Swedish contributor Joakim Larsson for catching the fascination in today's oddity of a Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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