Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-kænt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: Renounce, disavow, retract, take back a former opinion.

Notes: This word is not to be confused with decant "to pour wine into a decanter" (to let it breathe). Pouring wine into a recanter is another proposition altogether. The action noun is recantation.

In Play: Recantation involves a change of mind: "Jessie had published a lot, but nothing he couldn't comfortably recant should the occasion arise." Recantations may be forced or voluntary: "Jessie later recanted his proposal that the company build helicopter ejection seats."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Latin recantare "recall, revoke", from re- "back, again, over" + cantare "to chant, to sing". The Latin verb is a loan-translation of Greek palinoidein "recant" from palin "back" + oeidein "to sing". The Latin word cantare was built from the PIE word kan- "to sing", probably from a metaphorical idea of singing similar to the English slang usage meaning "squeal, tattle, inform on". PIE kan- is also the source of German Hahn "rooster" and English hen. French turned Latin cantare into chanter "to sing", which English on one of its lexical raids on French adopted as chant. French turned Latin carmen "song, poem, incantation" into charme "attraction, appeal", which appealed to English, too, which only shaved off the final E when it swiped it. In the Celtic languages it turned up in Irish as can, Welsh canu, and Breton cana "to sing". By the way, decant is based on an unrelated noun, Medieval Latin cantus "lip of a jug".

Dr. Goodword,

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