Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-gret Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To feel sorry about, to lament or feel remorse for something that has happened.

Notes: Today's word may be used without change as a noun, as to show regret for something. It has developed a hale and hearty family of relatives, including regretful and regretfully, meaning "to feel regret" and regrettable and regrettably, meaning "should be regretted". Be sure to distinguish these two: they are among the more commonly confused words in English since the 1970s: "Lionel was regretful that he slighted Hermione" but "It is regrettable that Lionel slighted Hermione."

In Play: We usually express our regrets for our own actions with today's word: "Even though Izzy Badenoff told Gretchen how much he regretted rerouting all the spam coming into the office to her computer, she nevertheless broke off their engagement." However, we can also regret other misfortunes, even if we are not responsible: "I really regret that they fired you for rerouting the spam, Izzy." (There were many better reasons.)

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French regreter "lament someone's death", made up of re-, an intensive prefix, + -greter, a mysterious verb etymologists have been unable to trace. Their best guess is that Old French borrowed an Old Germanic word *gretan "to weep, wail". This word appeared in Old English as grtan "to weep", and was used until the end of the 19th century as greet "to weep". We still find derivatives of the Germanic word in Swedish gråta and Danish græde "to cry". (We regret that we can only award Jerry Gault our gratitude for suggesting today's Good Word but he certainly has that.)

Dr. Goodword,

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