Printable Version
Pronunciation: pro-bê-tee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Total honesty, integrity and virtue, uprightness, high moral character.

Notes: Probity pretty much stands alone as a lexical orphan though, as the History will show, it has distant cousins in prove and its family. Probity has a meaning similar to honesty and uprightness but in a more pristine sense. Honesty and uprightness may be more or less, but probity is both these in their purest form.

In Play: Another way of defining today's Good Word would be to say that it means "no messing around": "Sarah Soda's drabness and the advanced years of Jerry Attrick guaranteed the probity of their late night dinners together." It is not always easy to distinguish probity from the appearance of probity: "Looking for a needle in a haystack is like looking for probity on Wall Street."

Word History: English borrowed probity, like so many other words from French. French (Latin as spoken in France today) inherited the word from Latin probitas "uprightness, honesty", a noun based on the adjective probus "worthy, good". Probus went into the making of probare "to prove worthy, to test". This verb ended up in Old French as prover, which English also borrowed as prove. While raising its debt level to Latin and the Romance languages, English also borrowed probare directly from Latin as probe. Where did probus itself come from? It goes back to a pre-Latin Proto-Indo-European derived word pro-bhwo- "being up front", made up of pro "in front of" + bhwo- "to be", the source of English be. (Let us not show a lack of probity by forgetting to thank Joyce Rhode for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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