Printable Version
Pronunciation: skêd Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive; noun

Meaning: 1. (Verb) To skim along in a straight line as if driven. 2. (Verb, nautical) To run before a gale with little or no sail. 3. (Noun) The act of scudding. 4. (Noun) A spray or vapory cloud driven by wind. 5. (Archaic noun) Dirt, grime; refuse.

Notes: Mostly clouds scud across the sky, but some animals scud, too. Anything driven by the wind can be said to be scudding, e.g. 'foam from the waves scudded southward'. Anything that scuds may be called a scudder or said to be scuddy.

In Play: According to today's contributor, when pilots scud, they fly beneath the clouds. However, scud is most closely associated with vapory objects: "The wind was just enough to lift the foam from the waves and send it scudding elsewhere." However, other things may scud along: "As Marigold was riding astride her stalwart stallion Thor, she sent several rabbits scudding through the grass."

Word History: Today's Good Word still has etymologists speculating. The best we can do is trace it back to PIE (s)keud-/(s)koud- "to shoot, throw" that was retained even after the [k] became [h] in Germanic languages to produce shoot. We have evidence that the [d] did become [t] in scut "docked tail", which by Middle English expanded to "short garment" and as a verb, "make a short, hurried run", which today underlies scuttle. Why the original PIE version was retained remains a mystery. If this etymology is true, it is the source of German shießen "to shoot", Dutch schieten "to shoot", and English scoot. Without the Fickle S we find Russian kidat' "to toss". (Today gratitude is due John Graham, a pilot who took time out of his 'scud-running', to contribute today's interesting Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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