Printable Version
Pronunciation: wayd-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A server, a man who waits tables in a restaurant. 2. A uniformed attendant at a British city or financial institution. 3. A person who waits expectantly.

Notes: You may have wondered at some point why a person we usually want to hurry is called a waiter (see Word History for the reason). Hurry up! It comes with a feminine alternative, waitress, avoided in the States for political reasons. Waiterage "waiter's duties", waiterdom "waiters as a class", and waiterhood "state of a waiter" have all been tried but today are rarely heard or read.

In Play: Almost all cafes and restaurants have waiters: "I never eat in an Italian restaurant that doesn't have a singing waiter." In the UK we might hear something like this: "Ty Kuhn keeps his account with an old establishment bank, replete with mahogany walls, black-coated waiters and grandfather clocks." Many apartments built in the 20s and 30s have a "dumb waiter", a tiny elevator in the wall for bringing things up to the floors above and taking them back down.

Word History: Today's Good word was taken from Anglo-French waitier "to watch", from Old French gaitier "watch out for, lie in wait" (Modern French guetter). French borrowed its word from Frankish wahton "watch out for, guard) or some other Germanic source with a word based on Old Germanic waht- "watch (out for)". The Old Germanic word gave rise to Dutch waken "to watch", English watch, German wachten "to watch", Swedish vakta "to watch", and Danish vogte "to watch". (Since French has no [w], they replaced W with GU [gw], which later reduced to G.) Old Germanic inherited its word from PIE weg- "be strong, awake". We find this word in its progeny: Sanskrit vuajayati "stimulates, drives", Latin vigil "awake, alert", English wake, German wecken "wake (up)", and Danish wække "wake, arouse".

Dr. Goodword,

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