Printable Version
Pronunciation: skrut-n-ee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Rare: Canon Law) Voting. 2. (Rare: British legal) An official audit of ballots cast, to confirm an outcome and eliminate invalid votes. 3. Close examination, taking into consideration all details. 4. A searching look, a prolonged, intense gaze.

Notes: The verb describing a scrutinous process is scrutinize. A person whose job it is to scrutinize something is either a scrutinizer or a scrutineer. If you are scrutable, you can be understood by scrutiny; otherwise, you are inscrutable.

In Play: The most widely used sense of this word is "close examination": "While Jerry Mander's speech was convincing on the surface, it was doomed to raise more questions than answers when placed under the scrutiny of PolitiFact." This word may be used to describe an intense look, too: "Hermione felt very uncomfortable under Beauregard's intrusive scrutiny of her."

Word History: Today's Good Word has taken a long semantic journey. It was "borrowed" from Old French scrutinie "voting, election" (Modern French scrutin) from Medieval Latin, scrutinium "election by ballot". The semantics followed the trail of "election" to "election audit (double check)", to "double check everything". This word was based on Latin scrutor "to examine thoroughly, ransack, search thoroughly", based on scruta (plural) "broken stuff, trash", perhaps from "ransacking the trash for evidence". Scruta was inherited from PIE (s)ker-/(s)kor- "to cut", source also of English shear, sharp, score "to cut", and sharp. In ancient Greek it turns up as keirein "to cut off", Albanian harr "to cut, prune", Lithuanian skìrti "to cut, allot, detach", and Welsh ysgaru "to separate, divorce". (Today's travel-weary Good Word was a suggestion of Senior Lexiterian William Hupy, wordmaster and decade-long contributor to our series.)

Dr. Goodword,

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