Printable Version
Pronunciation: tree-zên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Sedition, attempting to overthrow the government of the country to which the offender owes allegiance. 2. Treachery, betraying the confidence or trust of someone or something to its enemies.

Notes: Betrayal of one's country or church is known as 'high treason'; betrayal of anything else is 'petty (petite) treason'. Treason comes with two positive adjectives, treasonous and treasonable. and one negative one, treasonless. Although the noun itself may be used as a verb, betray is by far the more usual in this service. A lexical oddball, traitor, serves as the personal noun for betray.

In Play: This word is used far more often in referring to high treason: "Resisting the will of an autocrat often results in criminal charges of treason." Less often, it refers to petty treason: "When Shelly read her friend's diary and reported its contents to everybody, she committed the ultimate act of personal treason."

Word History: Today's Good Word is an English makeover of Old French traison "treason, treachery" (Modern French trahison). The French word is a reduction of Latin traditio(n) "delivery, handing over", the noun from trader "to deliver, hand over". This word is a reduction of trans- "over, across" + the combining form of dare "to give". (Traditions, too, are passed across generations.) French also turned Latin tradere into trahir "to betray", which English borrowed as the archaic verb tray "to betray", to which it later added the prefix be-. Getting back to treason, its underlying component trans comes from a suffix PIE tre--, a suffixed variant of tere- "cross over, pass through", which also made it to English in nostril, from Old English nos-thyrl "nose-hole", based on thyrel, the noun from thyrlian "to piece, bore". (Now, yet another note of thanks is due Albert Skiles, a prolific contributor since 2012, for today's unfortunately relevant Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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