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Pronunciation: træ-vis-tee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A ludicrously absurd misrepresentation of something, a gross violation. 2. (Theater) A disguise, dressing in the guise of the opposite sex. Often the French expression en travesti is used.

Notes: This noun may be used as a verb unadorned by suffixation: to travesty. The verb's past participle, travestied, may be used as an adjective modifying almost any noun, 'to speak in travestied Italian'.

In Play: Used as a noun, today's word refers to a ludicrous misrepresentation: "Lindon thought the mint jelly served with lamb was a travesty of the appropriate spices to be served with that meat." Travesty must refer to a representation of something that is absurdly wrong: "The film travestied the novel it was based on."

Word History: Travesty resembles transvestite because they share the source word, borrowed from two different stages in its development. It was borrowed from French travesti "dressed in disguise", the past participle of trasvestir "to disguise". This verb is the natural French inheritance of Latin transvestire "to disguise" (whence transvestite), comprising trans "across, over" + vestire "to wear". English borrowed the root of this verb as vest. The Proto-Indo-European root was wes- "to clothe". Old English changed the S to R to produce werian "to clothe, put on" with cognates in Old Norse verja and Old High German werian. The Old English word is wear today. The S did not change in Sanskrit vaste "he puts on", vasanam "garment", Welsh gwisgo, or Breton gwiska.

Dr. Goodword,

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