Printable Version
Pronunciation: se-grê-gay-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. The action of setting apart or state of being set apart from each other; separation by group. 2. To separate groups on the basis of perceived superiority-inferiority, as 'racial segregation' or 'gender segregation'.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the abstract noun of the verb segregate. We also have a personal noun, segregationist. It comes with three adjectives, segregational and segregative. The passive adjective drops the verbal suffix -ate: segregable "capable of being segregated".

In Play: Martin Luther King, Jr. led the struggle against racial segregation in America after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 forced the desegregation of US schools. The protests led by him brought about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Fair Housing Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the segregative South of the 1950s, African Americans went to poorer, separate schools from white Americans, had to sit in the balconies of theaters and the back of the bus, were not allowed to eat in restaurants with whites. All bathrooms and drinking fountains came in segregated pairs, or triplets in areas with Indian populations.

Word History: Today's word is based on Latin segregatus, the past participle of segregare "set apart, divide", originally "separate from the flock", based on segregare, from se "apart from" + grege, ablative of grex "herd, flock". Se- is a shortened form of sed "without, apart". This word was inherited from PIE swedh- "one's own" which, with a different suffix, ended up in English as self and Russian as svoi "one's own". Grex, grege comes from PIE ger-/gor- "to gather", and shows up in many Latin words which English borrowed: gregarious, congregate, and egregious. It shows up in Greek as agora "market, congregation place". (Today's Good Word was contributed by the good doctor himself, who grew up in the segregated South.")

Dr. Goodword,

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