Printable Version
Pronunciation: swah-ray Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A sophisticated evening party or reception.

Notes: This word would not do to refer to an evening fraternity party (except humorously), though the colloquial pronunciation of it in the 19th century, swarry, would. Some people prefer to leave on the cap it wears in French and spell it soirée.

In Play: Remember, elegance is the critical feature for an evening party to be called a soiree: "Natalie Kladd arrived at Madame Delphine LaLaurie's mansion for the soiree wearing the diamond necklace given to her by LaLaurie's husband." Again: "Sterling appeared at the soiree at Kensington Palace in a brand new uniform with captain's bars in place of the colonel's bars he once wore."

Word History: French soirée "evening; reception" is so new (mid 18th century) it only sometimes takes off its hat in English since English nicked it. French based its word on soir "evening", passed down from Latin sero "late", the adverb for serus "late". Latin inherited its word from PIE se-ro-, a suffixed form of se- "late, slow, tardy", found also in Sanskrit sayam "in the evening", German seit "since", Breton hir "long", Lithuanian sietuva "(river) depths", Middle Irish sith "since" and archaic English sith "after, subsequently". The suffix -ée is a common feminine past participle suffix in Modern French. In Old French it often appeared on time nouns indicating the expanse of that time or an activity that occurred in it, e.g. jour "day" > journée "daytime, a day's travel", an "year" > année "year's time", matin "morning" > matinée "morning time, morning or day performance". (Congratulations are now due wordmaster Albert Skiles for suggesting today's Frenchy if not purely French Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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