Printable Version
Pronunciation: tay-bêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. (US) To postpone the discussion of a motion at a meeting until a later date. 2. (UK) To introduce and present formally for discussion at a meeting. 3. To create a table or list of data, to tabulate.

Notes: We are discussing only the verbal senses of today's Good Word because the noun has so many well-known meanings. The verb is a contranym, a word that has two contrary meanings. The present participle, tabling, doubles (triples?) as both adjective and noun.

In Play: This verb means "to delay discussion" in the US: "The motion to allow massage parlors in Podunkton was tabled until after the November elections." In the UK, however, it means to introduce a motion: "The report on the city's efforts to reduce expenditures was tabled today before a council that showed little appetite for it."

Word History: The verb, of course, came from the noun, meaning "to put on the table", but on different tables in the UK and US. The noun comes from Latin tabula "board, table, list, painted panel". It came to Old Germanic as tabal, which went on to become German Tafel, Danish tavle, and Dutch tafel. Now, the closest PIE word to tabula is tel- "flat, board". We see it in Sanskrit tala- "flat", Greek telia "board", and Latin tellus "Earth", back when the planet was perceived as flat. Latin has a diminutive suffix, -ula, but that leaves the [e] > [a] shift and the insertion of [b] to explain. The shift of the sense of "board" to "table" is an ancient one. It even took place in English as the expression 'room and board' indicates. Apparently, the earliest tables were simply boards laid across a support. (Pamela Losey noticed the difference between the UK and US usages of today's Good Word and thought it would be of interest to us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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