In a word: defenestrate

May 21, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


We are two days away from the anniversary of the Defenestration of Prague.

On May 23, 1618, insurgent Bohemians unceremoniously tossed imperial commissioners out the window of Hradcany Castle in Prague, touching off the Thirty Years' War.

It was actually the second defenestration of Prague; in the first, in 1419, Hussites killed members of the city council. And some think of the death of Jan Masaryk in 1948, in a plunge from a window that Communist authorities called suicide but about which there is much doubt, a third defenestration.

By now you will have grasped that defenestrate (pronounced dee-FEN-uh-strate) means "to throw out the window. The Latin prefix de, "from" is attached to fenestra, "window."

Metaphorically, the word can describe a swift expulsion.

Example: From a 1996 article in Britain's Independent: "A woman, driven to fury by the manner in which her lover prefers to lavish his attention on a match on the telly rather than her, starts to throw his possessions out of the window. He's finally moved to stop her when she tries to defenestrate his new Puma boots."

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