discomfit

1 of 2

verb

dis·​com·​fit dis-ˈkəm(p)-fət How to pronounce discomfit (audio)
 especially Southern  ˌdis-kəm-ˈfit
discomfited; discomfiting; discomfits

transitive verb

1
: to put into a state of perplexity and embarrassment : disconcert
was discomfited by the question
2
a
: to frustrate the plans of : thwart
discomfit our foes
b
archaic : to defeat in battle
the ground … strewn with the discomfited Stephen Crane
discomfitingly
dis-ˈkəm(p)-fə-tiŋ-lē How to pronounce discomfit (audio)
ˌdīs-kəm-ˈfi-
adverb

discomfit

2 of 2

noun

: the state of being confused, embarrassed, or upset : discomfiture

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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.

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Choose the Right Synonym for discomfit

embarrass, discomfit, abash, disconcert, rattle mean to distress by confusing or confounding.

embarrass implies some influence that impedes thought, speech, or action.

the question embarrassed her so much she couldn't answer

discomfit implies a hampering or frustrating accompanied by confusion.

hecklers discomfited the speaker

abash presupposes some initial self-confidence that receives a sudden check, producing shyness, shame, or a feeling of inferiority.

abashed by her swift and cutting retort

disconcert implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy.

disconcerted by finding so many in attendance

rattle implies an agitation that impairs thought and judgment.

rattled by all the television cameras

Example Sentences

Verb constant interruptions discomfited her in her attempt to finish the speech, and she finally gave up he was discomfited by the awkward situation of having his ex-girlfriend meet his current one
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Daringly written mostly without gender pronouns, the poems discomfit the reader in the best possible way. Wsj Books Staff, WSJ, 8 Dec. 2021 It may also be seen as a way to discomfit the U.S. and serve as a bargaining chip to dissuade the U.S. from building missile defenses. Michael Peck, Forbes, 18 Oct. 2021 Singapore’s long reliance on a vast underclass of cheap labor from places like India, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar has discomfited some Singaporeans. Hannah Beech, New York Times, 10 Apr. 2020 An equally discomfiting element of the later books is what happens to Meg. Ruth Franklin, The New York Review of Books, 25 Feb. 2020 But in these packages, and in live broadcasts, the editing is meticulous, omitting anything that might discomfit the N.F.L.’s brass and team owners. Jody Rosen, New York Times, 12 Dec. 2019 The discomfiting fiction lends its name to a new exhibition of Kehinde Wiley’s work at the William Morris Gallery in London. The Economist, 28 Feb. 2020 Lange endured a fractious relationship with Stryker, who seemed deeply discomfited by a strong-minded woman. Arthur Lubow, New York Times, 13 Feb. 2020 All is provisional — a discomfiting proposition at first, but ultimately a relief. Los Angeles Times, 17 Aug. 2019
Noun
The discomfit of his rivals has been a political gift to Macron. Los Angeles Times, 12 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'discomfit.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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Word History

Etymology

Verb and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French descumfit, past participle of descumfire, from des- dis- + cumfire to prepare — more at comfit

First Known Use

Verb

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

Noun

circa 1616, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of discomfit was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near discomfit

Cite this Entry

“Discomfit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discomfit. Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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