• gadabout •
gæd-ê-bawt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Someone who gads about, a wanderer, someone who roves about idly out of curiosity, often spreading rumor and gossip in their wake.
Notes: Today's word comes from the phrase "to gad about", where gad itself has come to mean "to wander from place to place without a particular destination". It is a perfectly guileless word, spelled and pronounced exactly as it should be.
In Play: Gadabouts are basically people who cannot stay at home for long periods, who have to move about: "Oprah who? I'm afraid I'm an incorrigible gadabout who doesn't spend time watching TV." Some gadabouts, however, gallivant around spreading rumors, so this word makes a less jarring alternative to gossip: "I heard from the town gadabout, Miles Overland, that Willy Leaver isn't speaking to his wife."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a jocular turn of phrase based on the facetious verb gad, the origins of which are unclear. The best surmise is that it is a reduction of the phrase, "to flit about like a gadfly". Gadflies are known for their painful, burning bites. Human gadflies are people who annoy and figuratively get under your skin. Gad came from Old Norse gadd-r "spike, nail" from the times when the Vikings were gadflies along the coast of England. (Today we are grateful to Tonia Smith-Kalouria, author of the pun-filled collection of gadabout verse, Aerobic Poetry, for suggesting today's word.)