Printable Version
Pronunciation: sêr-ê-gêt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A substitute or replacement for someone in a particular relation or position.

Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as an adjective in phrases such as surrogate mother and surrogate brother. It may also be used as a verb meaning "to substitute" by slightly increasing the accent to the final syllable [sêr-ê-gayt], as to surrogate an imposter for the president. The noun of this verb is surrogation.

In Play: The meaning of surrogate is narrower than those of substitute and replacement in that it implies replacement in a specific role: "Margot isn't romantically inclined toward Iam Neise; he is more a surrogate for Margot's brother who recently moved to Colorado." Although the word need not refer to humans, its reference must imply some role: "Well, a Ford is a poor surrogate for the Lamborghini you promised me, but I guess it will take me where I'm going." This assumes that Lamborghinis fill the role of a status symbol that Fords do not.

Word History: Today's word comes from Latin surrogatus, the past participle of surrogare "to substitute", made up of sub "below, under" + rogare "to ask". There are several prefixes in Latin whose final consonant was "assimilated" by the initial consonant of the stem to which it attached and sub is one of them. In words like suppose and support it is completely assimilated to the following consonant. In suspect and suspend, it is only partially assimilated. In the case of today's Good Word, surrogate, it is also completely assimilated.

Dr. Goodword,

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