• revanche •
ri-vahnsh, rê-vawNsh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: The capture of territory previously taken by another nation or territory that has previously won its independence.
Notes: For a word not completely naturalized in English, this word has a substantial family. Some still use the French adjective, revanchard, but most prefer the English adjective, which also serves as a noun: revanchist "(a person) supporting revanche". The abstract noun is revanchism.
In Play: In "The Long Game", an article in The Economist, of September 6, 2014, today's contributor read: "Mr. Putin's revanchism must therefore be stopped in Ukraine." Revanchism differs from expansionism in that the acquired territory once belonged to the aggressor. Ukraine historically was a region of Russia, hence the old name "the Ukraine". Another example was the Spanish revanche of the Muslim controlled regions (caliphates) of Spain in the 15th century.
Word History: Middle French had two words for "revenge", revenche and revanche. English borrowed its verb from Middle French revenger, but nicked revanche in the late 19th century in its current meaning. The Middle French word descended from Latin revindicare "to exact retribution", a verb composed of re- "back, again" + vindicare "to avenge". Vindicare was originally a verb phrase, vim dicare "to show authority". Dicare, was a variant of dicere "to say, show, declare". It shares an origin—the PIE word deik- "show, indicate"—with digit and digital. These words were borrowed from Latin digitus "finger" (adjective digitalis), which humans seem to have originally used for both indicating and counting. (Today we thank George Kovac for reporting this almost unknown Good Word from The Economist article mentioned above.)
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