• taut •
tawt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Stretched or drawn tight, tight. 2. Firm, muscular, not flabby or flaccid (body). 3. Nervously uptight, high-strung, tense. 4. Highly disciplined, controlled, trim, as 'a taut ship' or 'taut writing style'.
Notes: Don't be misled by the pronunciation of this word; it is identical to taught, the past tense of teach, but they are not spelled the same. The adverb is tautly and the noun, tautness.
In Play: The senses of this word are so closely related, we seldom notice when we use two at the same time: "The massage was therapeutic, relaxing taut muscles and nerves." Here's another one: "Rhoda Book's new novel is as taut, sharp, and resonant as a piano wire."
Word History: This word seems to be a development of Middle English toght "stretched, strained", past participle of Old English togian "to drag, pull" which split into towen and tuggen by Middle English and went on to become tow and tug today. Togian came to English via its Germanic ancestors from PIE deuk "to drag, pull, lead". which also produced Latin ducere "to lead; drag, draw" and dux, ducis "leader", via a sense of "someone who draws (others)". This word led to English duke via a borrowing from French, a descendant of Latin. We find the Latin word in dozens of English borrowings, also via French: educate, conduct, deduct, and so on.
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