canaille was our Word of the Day on 04/14/2016. Hear the podcast!
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The Origin of canaille
For a creature said to be man's best friend, the dog doesn't get a whole lot of respect in the English language. Something that has "gone to the dogs," for example, has gone to ruin, and the Britishism dog's breakfast means a confused mess of something. The word canaille, which debuted in English in the 17th century, shows that we have no qualms about associating dogs with the lower levels of human society; it derives via French from Italian canaglia, and ultimately from canis, the Latin word for "dog." Canis, of course, is also the source of canine, which as a noun refers to a dog (as well as a conical pointed tooth), and as an adjective means "of or relating to dogs or to the family to which they belong."
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