Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-dæwt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: No, this word doesn't refer to a second doubt, but 1. A supplementary fortification inside a larger one as a last line of defense. 2. A detached fieldwork or protective barrier defending a specific object, such as a pass or hilltop. 3. A last resort, a stronghold or bastion, a secure haven, a safe, secure place of any kind.

Notes: The meaning of today's Good Word seems to have wriggled free of all its previous meanings. The sense of the verb redoubt bears no resemblance to that of the noun: "to dread, fear, stand in awe of" (for the reason see Word History below). We hear the adjective, redoubtable, from the verb all the time in phrases like "the redoubtable Fred Allen" in the sense of "formidable, commanding respect".

In Play: This word originally was used only in military contexts: "Henry became so claustrophobic in the foxhole that he ran out and single-handedly destroyed the machine-gun redoubt at the top of the hill that was holding his detachment down." However, it wandered off post and went AWOL, joining the general vocabulary: "Hell and high water in this redoubt of obsequiousness can be a lot of fun."

Word History: Today's word comes from French redoute, a reduction of Medieval Latin reductus "place of refuge, retreat", the noun use of the past participle of reducere "to lead or bring back". The B was added under the influence of the historically unrelated English verb, redoubt "to dread, fear". As an adjective, Latin reductus meant "withdrawn, remote, distant", thence "protected" and "last resort". The Latin verb contains the sense of "retreat", and a retreat may be something of a redoubt. The root of reducere, duc-, comes from PIE deuk- "to lead", which came up in English, a Germanic language, as tug. English also borrowed a load of words from Latin or Romance languages based on duc-: duke, duct, deduce, and many more. (Today's Good Word is a gift of George Kovac, a lawyer in Miami, Florida, who leaves no doubt that he is also a logophile extraordinaire.)

Dr. Goodword,

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