Printable Version
Pronunciation: rê-sher-shay Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Exquisite, elegant, superbe. 2. Excessively refined, so splendid as to be known only to connoisseurs, esoteric, obscure, arcane, pretentious.

Notes: Recherche du temps perdu "In search of lost time", the title of a novel by Marcel Proust, is used in English in the sense of "remembrance of times gone by, one's early life". If you need decorative language, you may put the French cap on the final E (recherché).

In Play: This word is rather commonly used to describe cultural things, like food, style, music, literature, to denote obscure or arcane excellence: "Sheridan reached his manhood in the 40s, when medieval music was even more of a recherche taste than it is now." It is probably more often used in the sense of "arcane, esoteric, pretentious" today: "The language of Rhoda Book's new novel is literate without being recherché."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes directly from French recherch "sought out", the past participle of rechercher "to seek out". English also anglicized this word into research. It contains re- "re-, again" + chercher "to search" from Late Latin circare "to wander around", based on Classical Latin circus "circle". Latin came by this word from PIE (s)ker-/(s)kor- "to turn, bend". Without the Fickle S, the same word became kirkos "ring" in Greek (whence English cycle), kirk in Scots English, and church in standard English. With the Fickle S, English turned the word into skirt, the noun and the verb meaning "to go around the edge of something". Of course, English borrowed circus as is, but redesigned Latin circulus "a circle", creating circle. (We should now thank George Kovac, who lent us today's Good Word from his recherché vocabulary.)

Dr. Goodword,

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