Word of the Day : April 14, 2016

canaille

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noun kuh-NYE

Definition

1 : rabble, riffraff

2 : proletarian

Did You Know?

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."


Examples

"I am not going to write for [The New York Weekly]—like all other papers that pay one splendidly, it circulates among stupid people & the canaille." — Mark Twain, letter, 1 June 1867

"Where the beau monde leads, the canaille will follow." — Richard Brookhiser, The New York Observer,12 May 2003



Word Family Quiz

What adjective is related to Latin canis and refers to the hot summer period between early July and early September, the dog days of summer?

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