Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: maladroit\mal-uh-DROYT\
: lacking skill, cleverness, or resourcefulness in handling situations : inept

To understand the origin of "maladroit," you need to put together some French (or at least Middle French and Old French) building blocks. The first is the word "mal," meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase "a droit," meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components "a," meaning "to" or "at," and "droit," meaning "right, direct, straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as "maladroit" to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is "adroit," which we adopted from the French in the same century.

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