Printable Version
Pronunciation: pra-pê-gæn-dê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An organization or movement for the propagation of a particular set of ideas, doctrines, or practices. 2. The information disseminated by such an organization, promoting a particular point of view.

Notes: This word has fallen into disuse by the media in recent years, but not because this kind of biased information has disappeared. It is alive and well in advertising and politics. The adjective for this noun is propagandistic, and the personal noun is propagandist. We even have a verb: propagandize.

In Play: You'll never hear anyone say anything like this: "Here, take this brochure; it is just a bit of propaganda for my new, improved snake oil." But that is exactly what advertising is: biased information about a product put out by the company selling it. You might hear something like this: "Don't listen to a thing that old propagandist tells you: all he says about that political party he belongs to is just propaganda."

Word History: Today's word is the feminine gerundive of Latin propagare "to propagate". It came to prominence in the title Congregatio de propaganda fide "Congregation for propagating the faith" (1623). This title belonged to a now obsolete committee of cardinals responsible for foreign missions, so originally, propaganda carried no pejorative baggage. The pejorative sense crept in with the response to the books and pamphlets of Fascism, Socialism, and Communism in the 1920s and 1930s. Latin propagare comprises pro- "before, in front of" + pag- "to fix", an inflectional form of pango "to fasten, drive in (a stake)". The original concept was apparently fixing the information before the person you wish to convince. (Thank you, Jackie Strauss, for reminding us of this Good if now unsavory Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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