Friday, November 08, 2002

Etymology Today from M-W: debacle \dee-BAH-kul or dee-BACK-ul\
1 : a tumultuous breakup of ice in a river
2 : a violent disruption (as of an army) : rout
3 a : a great disaster *b : a complete failure : fiasco

"Debacle" comes from the French "debacle," which comes from the verb "debacler," meaning "to clear," "to unbolt," or "to unbar." The word comes from the Middle French "desbacler," which joined the prefix "des-" (equivalent to our "de-," meaning "to do the opposite of") with the verb "bacler" ("to block"). In its original uses, "debacle" meant a breaking up of ice, or the rush of ice or water that follows such an occurrence. Eventually, "debacle" was used also to mean "a violent, destructive flood." Naturally, such uses led to meanings such as "a breaking up," "collapse," and finally "disaster" or "fiasco."

Fun Words: adjunct, ebb, perforate
Previous E.T.

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