Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-kwait Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: 1. Return (a favor), repay, respond, reciprocate as to requite someone's work with pay or another's love. 2. Avenge, retaliate, pay back, as requite him for a slight.

Notes: This Good Word, despite the fact that we hear it more frequently negated as unrequited, is not an orphan negative. We have seen this phenomenon before in such words as couth, gruntle, and peccable. Today's word comes with an action noun, requital, an adjective requitable, and a personal noun, requiter.

In Play: Today's Good Word can be interpreted as a reward or as retaliation: "When the company requited Seamus Allgood with a wristwatch on his retirement after 30 years of service, he didn't know if it was revenge or a reward." Usually, the interpretation is positive, though: "Nature always requites those who endure the winter with a glorious spring."

Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of re- "back" + Middle English quite "clear, pay up", an earlier variant of quit "to repay, discharge", as in quitrent. English borrowed this word from the Old French lexical bank, specifically from quiter "to clear (a debt), to release". Old French had an adjective, too: quite "free (from debt), clear, at liberty", from Medieval Latin quitus, Classical Latin quietus "at rest, free from exertion, inactive". English picked off all these words along the way from Latin to French: quit, quiet, and quite. In Latin, the original stem picked up a suffix -t; in the Germanic languages it was suffixed with -l, so that in English we got the original PIE word as while. The -l also shows up in Latin tranquillus "tranquil, beyond quiet", which—you guessed it—English also snatched. Finally, Latin quietus also came down to Old French as quei, Modern French coi. Yep. English grabbed that one, too, as coy "modest, shy". (The time has arrived to requite George Kovacs with our gratitude for recommending today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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