Printable Version
Pronunciation: show-awf Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Mass noun) Pretentious, ostentatious display, deliberate conspicuous display, as 'a show-off of knowledge of jazz'. 2. (Count noun) A person given to deliberate pretentious display of their possessions, talents, or knowledge.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the verb show off used as a noun. The noun usage still requires a hyphen, though a few dictionaries list it without the hyphen. Like most compound words, today's is a lexical orphan without derivational family.

In Play: Show-offs are usually highly insecure: "Gilda Lilly's problem goes beyond extroversion; she is an insecure little show-off." Some show-offs have real accomplishments that aren't readily visible: "Seamus Saul is such a show-off he signs his name 'Seamus Saul, AB, MA, PhD'."

Word History: Show-off is obviously a compound noun involving show + off. Show is the English rendition of Proto-Germanic skau- "to behold, look at", from PIE (s)kou- "to see" with a Fickle S. The Germanic languages preserved the Fickle S in such words as German schauen "to look", Dutch schouwen "to look, view, examine", and English show. Other Indo-European languages disengaged the initial S in such words as Latin cautio(n) "care, foresight" and cavere "beware", Greek kydos "glory, fame", Lithuanian kavoti "(at)tend, guard", Armenian cucanem "I show", and Serbian čuvati "watch over, care for, preserve".

Dr. Goodword,

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