Printable Version
Pronunciation: vo-dêr-ee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: No, today's word does not refer to a polling booth (but see Word History). It has two meanings: 1. Someone who is bound by vows to a particular kind of life, as a monk or nun. 2. A person who is obsessed by something, a single-minded fanatic.

Notes: Notice that Americans use a [d] in the pronunciation of the T in this word. In fact, in most dialects of English [t] becomes [d] between vowels. That is why it is often difficult to tell a good writer from a good rider even though the difference between them is great. Remember to replace the [y] with [ie] before the plural [s]: votaries. The adjective accompanying this word is votive, often heard in phrases like votive candles "candles commemorating vows" and votive prayers "prayers that are a part of vows".

In Play: This Good Word is most commonly associated with religion: "As a devout votary of Catholicism, Hadley felt that she had to send her children to the same St. Mary's Academy that she attended." However, we may expand this word's meaning to cover obsessions: "To say that Jack Potts is a gambling addict puts it too mildly; he is a veritable votary of Vegas."

Word History: Historically, this word is related to vote. Like vote, it comes from Latin votum, the neuter past participle of vovere "to vow". With the prefix de "down", from" this word becomes devovere "to dedicate by a vow", whose past participle devotus became English devote. The same original root emerged in Greek as euxe "vow, wish" and Sanskrit vaghat- "someone who offers a sacrifice". The same root made it to Modern English as the verb to woo, from Old English wogian "to vow, pledge". Now we know what wooing is supposed to lead to. (Now let's pledge our thanks to one of the editors of our series, Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, a long-standing language votary, for suggesting today's intriguing Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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