• temerity •
tê-mer-i-ti • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Rashness, reckless contempt for danger, flagrant boldness; nerve, cheek, gall in the face of some threat.
Notes: I began my education (decades ago) suspecting that today's Good Word was somehow related to timid; I'll bet I was not alone. In fact, as we can see just above, its meaning is diametrically opposed to that of timid. The adjective associated with this word, temerous, doesn't help matters, for it sounds so much like timorous, and it does mean "timid". A temerous action is a rash and dangerous one, while a timorous action is carried out very cautiously, even fearfully.
In Play: When you need a word a bit classier than nerve, cheek, or gall, remember today's Good Word: "Pierce Deere had the temerity to ask for a raise the day after everyone in the company received the memo about downsizing." Just keep in mind that we use it only when the nerve, cheek, or gall was ill-advised and shown in the face of some danger: "Randy Farmer has been expelled from the club because he had the temerity to pinch Cally Pygian in a place I'd rather not mention!" (The kitchen?)
Word History: Today's Good Word is a burnishing of 15th century French témérité, inherited from Latin temeritas "happenstance, accident, at random", a noun derived from the adverb temere "by chance, accidentally". "Blindly" or "in the dark" are other fitting translations of this word because it comes from a Proto-Indo-European word, temes- "dark". We find relatives in Sanskrit tamas- "darkness", and Russian t'ma "darkness" and tëmnyi "dark". (I simply would not have the temerity to omit a word of gratitude to Jeremy Busch for suggesting today's Good Word some time ago.)
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