Word of the Day : April 14, 2021
1 : to put into a state of perplexity and embarrassment : disconcert
2 a : to frustrate the plans of : thwart
b archaic : to defeat in battle
Did you know?
Disconcerted by discomfit and discomfort? While the two look similar and share some semantic territory, they’re etymologically unrelated. Unlike discomfort, discomfit has no connection to comfort, which comes ultimately from Latin com- plus fortis, meaning “strong.” Instead, discomfit was borrowed from Anglo-French in the 13th century with the meaning “to defeat in battle.” Within a couple centuries, discomfit had expanded beyond the battlefield to mean “to frustrate the plans of; to thwart,” a meaning that eventually softened into the “to disconcert or confuse” use we find most often today—one quite close to the uneasiness and annoyance communicated by discomfort. For a time, usage commentators were keen to keep a greater distance between discomfit and discomfort; they recommended that discomfit be limited to “to completely defeat; to rout,” but they’ve largely given up now, and the “disconcert or confuse” meaning is fully established. There is one major difference between discomfit and discomfort, though: discomfit is used almost exclusively as a verb, while discomfort is much more commonly used as a noun than a verb.
Jacob was discomfited by the new employee’s forward, probing questions.
“Upon entering the theater, the audience is immediately discomfited by the set; it is a portrait of devastation. Aaron Benson’s scenic design is a beautiful and chaotic vision of decay: two towering tenements whose brick walls are stripped down to their wooden lath, with battered plaster that doubles as projection surfaces peeking between the bricks.” — Andrea Simakis, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 Mar. 2020