Printable Version
Pronunciation: ri-spek-tiv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Related discretely and individually to two or more things already mentioned. 2. (UK) Respectful.

Notes: Here is another word whose usage, like that of topical, has all but completely disengaged from the meaning of its root, respect. Its adverb, respectively, is used, according to Google, more often than the adjective.

In Play: Today's word is used when you wish to attribute two things to two people that are different: "While chatting about their respective childhoods, Rebecca and Clint discovered that they had lived on the same street in Cleveland for 6 years." The adverb is used to indicate that of the two or more people already mentioned, whatever is said about them applies to them in the same order as they are mentioned: "Phil Anders and William Arami are going out with Gloria Sass and June McBride, respectively."

Word History: Today's Good Word was pirated from Late Latin respectivus "relative, belonging to each invidivual separately", an adjective based on Latin respectus "regarded", used as a noun meaning "a looking back, consideration". Respectus is the past participle of respicere "look back at, consider", composed of from re- "back" + spicere, the combining form of specere "to look at". Latin inherited specere from PIE root spek-/spok- "to watch". It went into the making of spectator "observer" and -spector as in the English borrowings inspector and prospector. We find it in German spähen "peek, peer". Old French didn't like S + another consonant, so it added an E to its reduction of the Latin specere: espier "to watch, observe". English removed the E and created (to) spy from the remainder. Greek reversed the P and K to get skopein "to see", which English borrowed for a host of words like telescope and microscope.

Dr. Goodword,

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