Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-kyuz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To disqualify from participation in a decision because of personal prejudice or interest in a particular outcome. 2. (Religion) To reject, refuse to comply with.

Notes: This verb is used mostly reflexively, i.e. to recuse oneself, because in a legal action it is usually done voluntarily or under pressure. The noun for this verb is recusal. The adjective for recuse is recusant, but it fits only to the second sense in Meaning above.

In Play: This verb is used mostly in the non-religious sense above: "The defense attorney asked for the judge to recuse himself because he was married to the prosecutor." This word is highly relevant to the political situation in the US in 2017: "Suspicions are growing with the number of Republican politicians recusing themselves and resigning from the various investigations of the Trump-Russian relationship."

Word History: Recuse was borrowed from Latin recusare "decline, refuse, reject. be reluctant to" via French. It is based on re- "again, back, undo" + causa "reason, interest, (court) case" + -are, a verbal affix. This word has been used in courts based on the Roman legal system to reject or challenge a judge or juror as disqualified to act because of bias. The prefix may well have come from a metathetical form of PIE wert- "to turn, in other words, wret-. The case is supported by the fact that before words beginning with a vowel, it become red-: redact, redolent, and redundant. [d] is a voiced variant of [t], i.e. pronounced while vibrating the vocal cords. However, the evidence ends there. There is absolutely no evidence suggesting where causa originates. (I cannot recuse myself from offering Rob Towart my sincerest gratitude for recommending today's most topical Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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