Printable Version
Pronunciation: vin-det Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A family feud in which one member avenges some kind of injury inflicted by a member of the other family. 2. A series of attacks against someone, a prolonged campaign against someone.

Notes: Today's word was nabbed unchanged from the Italian language, so it hasn't been able to develop an immediate English lexical family. A distant cousin is vindicate, which originally meant "to avenge". However, during the age of duels, when it was assumed that a duel settled a disagreement in favor of the survivor, the meaning changed to "clear of suspicion".

In Play: Perhaps the most famous vendetta was that of the McCoy family against the Hatfield family following the murder of Asa McCoy. Since the Hatfields reciprocated, it is known as the "Hatfield-McCoy Feud". It lasted from 1863 to 1891. However, violence need not be involved in a vendetta: "Izzy Badenoff claimed he was driven out of the general assembly by vendetta against him in the press."

Word History: Vendetta is an Italian word borrowed by English and never returned. Italian inherited the word from Latin vindicta "revenge", which underlies another English borrowing vindictive. Vindicta is made up of variants of vim (as in 'vim and vigor'), the accusative case of vis "strength, energy" + dictus "said, asserted, declared", the past participle of dicare "to say, assert, declare". Vis is the root of vir "man" via rhoticism. We see vir in the English borrowing virile "manly". Dicare goes back to PIE deik- "to show, pronounce solemnly", which turned up in English as teach. (Lest our prodigal son Albert Skyles be tempted into a vendetta, let's now thank him for his suggestion of today's historically and semantically fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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