Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêr-si-vênt, -swi-vênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (British) A rank below a herald, an assistant herald. (A herald is an officer who makes royal or state proclamations and carries messages between members of the royalty.) 2. A Grand Lodge guard of the inner entrance to a Masonic lodge. 3. (Archaic) A follower, attendant.

Notes: To distinguish the first meaning of this word, it is often extended as pursuivant at arms. It may be used as a verb to indicate the occupation of a pursuivant in the first sense. Otherwise, it is a lexical orphan.

In Play: Today's word is used mostly in Britain. The vast majority of its uses are in reference to the British Royalty: "The duke was pleased with the news and gave the pursuivant at arms who brought it lavish gifts." High-ranking Church officials might also have pursuivants: "I noticed behind the Archbishop his pursuivant in a sable coat with a silver cross."

Word History: Today's Good Word was copied letter-for-letter from Old French, where it was the present participle of pursuivre "to follow". Old French had inherited it from Latin persequor "to follow, pursue" and materially modified in ways that are obvious. The Latin word comprises per-, a metathesized version of pre- "through, thorough" + sequor "to follow". Sequor was a Latin adaptation of PIE sekw-/sokw- "to follow", source also of Sanskrit sakate "follows", Lithuanian sekti "to follow", Latin secundus "second" (the following), Albanian shkoj "go", Latvian sekot "to follow", German suchen "to seek", English seek, and Icelandic sækja "fetch". (Gratitude is owed Bucknell emeritus professor of music, prolific composer and anglophile extraordinaire Jackson Hill for spotting and sharing today's eccentrically Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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