Printable Version
Pronunciation: ên-dyu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Not due, not owed. 2. Unwarranted, excessive improper, unreasonable.

Notes: Dictionaries differ on whether this word still has a literal sense: "not yet payable". The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists this meaning, though the latest citation was taken from an 1843 publication. The adverb is unduly and the noun, undueness.

In Play: Here is a sentence that could be interpreted in the literal sense of undue: "Renfrow thought that dismissal from the company was an undue response to his putting a frog in the water cooler." Here is one that can't be interpreted that way: "Geraldine thought her coworkers showed undue concern over her publishing pictures of their romantic clinches at work on Facebook." Maybe she was wrong.

Word History: Although today's Good Word has swung far away from its derivational history, it clearly is a combination of un- "not, no" + due "owed". Most Indo-European languages have a negative prefix with an N in it: Latin and all Romance languages have in-, Dutch on-, German un-, Greek and Sanskrit a(n)-. This seems to have come from a PIE negative particle ne with metathesis. Due was borrowed from Old French deu (Modern French ), the past participle of devoir "to owe", which French had whittled down from Latin debere "to owe". Debere was a reduction of de- "(away) from" + habere "to have". Habere was the Latin rendition of ghabh- "to give; to receive" which, despite its looks, is unrelated to English have or to German haben. They come from PIE kap- "to grab", as in captious. (Today's Good Word, whose meaning is wandering way off course, is a yet another gift of Eileen Opiolka, a stalwart contributor since 2009.)

Dr. Goodword,

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