Printable Version
Pronunciation: ræ-kahn-tur Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A person skilled in telling anecdotes and stories.

Notes: Today's Good Word refers to a highly articulate person of sublime wit and highly developed narrative skills. While the French feminine form of this word, raconteuse, is considered politically incorrect in the US, it is still used from time to time elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

In Play: A raconteur is someone who holds our attention with fascinating stories: "Les Teller is a superb raconteur of his travels to places I try to avoid." We generally associate the business of raconteurs with wit and plays on words: "His wife, Mona, is herself a witty raconteur whose anecdotes focus mostly on her husband."

Word History: Today's is another French word, this one derived from the verb raconter "to relate" + the personal suffix -eur "-er, one who". The verb goes back to reconter, made up of re- "again" + conter "to count, reckon". Conter is a reduction of Latin computare "to sum up" from com- "(together) with" + putare "to reckon, consider". In the 15th century, French reimported computare as compter "to count" and the meaning of conter shifted to "relate, recount, tell". Counting and story-telling have long been associated. English uses recount in the sense of "to tell (a story)" and the result of recounting in this sense is an account of something. (Janie Ramey must be something of a raconteur herself to find today's Good Word in her lexical garden.)

Dr. Goodword,

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