Printable Version
Pronunciation: rê-bel-yên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Resistance to power, disobedience to authority of any sort. 2. Insurrection, insurgency, uprising against political authority, attempted political revolution.

Notes: We have a problem in 2021 of rebellion in the US that culminated in an insurgent mob attacking the Capitol on January 6 of this year. This noun is based on another one, rebel; it comes with two adjectives rebellious and the less frequent rebellant. The nature of rebellion itself is called rebeldom.

In Play: Of the many slave rebellions the one at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in 1859 led by the abolitionist John Brown and captured in the folk song "John Brown's Body", is one of the most famous. Rebellions don't have to be armed uprisings: "We usually think of London as a stodgy place, so the Brexit rebellion surprised us all." Teenagers, too, are often rebellious.

Word History: Today's Good Word was copied letter for letter from Old French rebellion, derived from the adjective rebelle "stubborn, rebellious". This word was passed on from Latin rebellis "insurgent, rebellious", based on rebellare "to rebel, revolt" from re- "back, against, again" + bellare "to wage war", a verb based on bellum "war", as in English antebellum "before the war", also underlying the Latinate borrowings bellicose and belligerent). No one knows how bellum got into Latin, but we do have evidence of the origin of Latin re(d)- "backward, reverse, again". This word probably began as a metathetical version of PIE wert-/wort- "to turn", (w)red-. Before vowels re- became red -in Latin: red-undan(t)s "rising in waves again" (English redundant) and red-actus "set in motion again" (English redact). (Now let's thank Albert Skiles, who months ago thought we should be warned of this Good Word's relevance.)

Dr. Goodword,

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