Today's Word "Dishevel"


Published in Vocabulary

dishevel\di-SHEV-ehl\ (verb) - To disorder or tousle, especially hair or clothing.

"Martha tended to come to work with with desheveled hair and clothing as a way of showing her contempt for the office hierarchy and it's concomitant lack of promotions."


The origin of today's word is Old French "deschevele," past participle of descheveler "to muss the hair," itself from des- "apart" + chevel "hair." "Chevel" (Modern French "cheveu") is capillus "hair" munched from Latin to French. The original meaning of English "capillary" is "hair-like" and a "capillature" in the 17th century was the natural state of hair on a head. This is one of those negated words without a positive correlate, e.g. "disgruntled," "unkempt," "nonchalant." If I am disheveled and tidy up, why am I not then "sheveled?" (Do kempt people make you gruntled or chalant?) In current American usage, "dishevel" takes the endings -ing and -ed without any changes to the stem; in British usage, the "l" is doubled: "dishevelled," "dishevelling."



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