• scapegrace •
skayp-grays • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: An incorrigible scoundrel, rake(hell), scalawag.
Notes: Here is a lovely word in the English recycle bin that begs rescue. It is remindful of scapegoat, with the same sense of scape in that word.
In Play: Tom Jones, the hero of Henry Fielding's 1749 novel named after that hero, is one of the most famous scapegraces of English literature. However, today's word would feel comfortable in many a conversation outside literature: "Modesty Clark found Phil Anders too much the scapegrace to take his proposal seriously."
Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously a compound comprising scape + grace. Scape is the aphetic version of escape, like squire from esquire and venture from adventure. So, since grace means "mercy", it originally meant "someone who escapes mercy". Escape was borrowed from Old French eschaper "to escape" (Modern French échapper), from Vulgar (street) Latin excappare "to escape", literally, "to leave a pursuer with only your cape", based on ex "(out) from" + cappa "cape with or without a hood", borrowed source also of cap and cape. This word came from Latin caput "head", from PIE kaput "head", which also produced Old English heafod, which is head today. Grace was borrowed from French grâce "grace, mercy", passed on from Latin gratus "beloved, pleasing". Gratus was made out of PIE gwerê- "to praise, welcome", source also of Albanian grish "to invite", Lithuanian gėrti "to praise, flatter" and geras "good, nice". (Yet again we owe a debt of gratitude to wordmaster extraordinaire George Kovac, a prolific Agoran since 2010, for suggesting another rare Good Word.)
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