Printable Version
Pronunciation: sêp-têr-fyuj, sêb-dêr-fyuj Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Deception used to achieve a goal, pretense or other trickery to get what you want. 2. A deceptive device or stratagem.

Notes: English does not tolerate the cluster BT, for [b] is a voiced consonant and [t] is a voiceless consonant. So, we either have to make them both voiceless [pt] or both voiced [bd]. Today's Good Word has no lexical or derivational family.

In Play: The implication of today's word is that the deceit is subtle: "The best propaganda uses (subtle) subterfuge to convince people to behave in ways that do not serve their own self-interests." We see subterfuge around us every day: "TV commercials resort to many subterfuges to entice viewers to buy the products they advertise."

Word History: Today's Good Word was snatched from Middle French subterfuge, inherited Medieval Latin subterfugium "an evasion", derived from the Classical Latin verb subterfugere "to evade, escape, flee stealthily". This word is composed of subter "beneath, below; secretly" + fugere "flee". Subter came from PIE sup-ter-, a comparative form of (s)up- "(from) under". (S)up- is probably a reduction of the combination of eks "out" + upo "under, over". That would explain how the Latin suffixes sub "under" and super "over, above", and Greek hypo "under" and hyper "over" could come from the same source (upo). (Chris Stewart, our long-standing friend in South Africa, does not have to resort to subterfuge when he submits a blatantly Good Word like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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