In a word: doughty

September 22, 2014|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

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

DOUGHTY

English has a very old word for being bold and resolute. Doughty (pronounced DOWT-ee) appears in the Abingdon Chronicle of A.D. 1030, the OED tells us: a "dohtiga eorl," or doughty earl. 

It's a thoroughly germanic word, the Old English version, dyhtig, deriving from the Old High German tuchtig, "fit," "good," "excellent."

Originally it meant "able," "strong," "valiant," "fearless in resolution and stout in struggle," the OED says. 

But as warrior culture waned, the original intensity of the word has waned with it, so that doughty in modern times tends to be used humorously, as in Dickens's Dombey and Son: "Nor did he ever again face the doughty Mrs. Pipchin." 

Example: From The American Spectator, April 3, 2010: "NYRB's doughty war correspondent, Jonathan Raban, files from behind enemy lines deep in enemy territory." 

Writing for the New York Review of Books, Raban had attended a tea party convention in Nashville. 

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