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Neophyte

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Neophyte

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:12 pm

• neophyte •


Pronunciation: nee-ê-fait • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A recent convert to a belief, a novitiate, a proselyte. 2. A novice, a beginner in a subject or activity.

Notes: Don't be thrown by the PH for the [f] sound or the Y where we would normally expect an I. This is just the classic English transliteration of the Greek word. Today's word brings along with it two adjectives, neophytic [nee-ê-fit-ik] and neophytish [nee-ê-fait-ish]. The state of a neophyte is known as neophytism.

In Play: Today's word is basically a noun referring to someone who is new at something: "To the neophyte, a Twitter stream looks like military code, with all its OMGs, LOLs, @'s and #'s." However, this noun, like so many others, may be used attributively, as though it were an adjective: "Rex Moders is such a neophyte mechanic, he spent a month looking for an MC hammer for his toolbox." (MC Hammer is a famous rapper.)

Word History: Today's Good Word entered Middle English from Late Latin neophytus, borrowed by the Romans from Greek neophytos. The Greek word is composed of neo(s) "new"+ phytos "planted", the past participle of phyein "to shoot forth, grow". The origins of Greek neos has already been covered in the Good Word neoteric. Phyein comes from the same PIE source as English build and bower, discussed in neighbor. In German the same root, PIE bheu- "to exist, grow", emerged as Baum "tree", bauer "farmer" and bauen "build". In Latin the initial [bh] became [f], so we recognize the PIE root in futurus "future" = "that is to be". (Albert Skiles, no neophyte to the Good Word series, is to be congratulated for his recommendation of today's very Good Word.)
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Re: Neophyte

Postby Pattie » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:16 am

Dear Dr Goodword, today's word provokes a question: During the 14 or so years when I was being educated by nuns, the word 'novitiate' denoted either the state or condition of being a novice (e.g. She will undertake her novitiate at St Echolalia's convent) or the place that housed novices (e.g. It was the job of the novices to sweep the floors of the novitiate). Increasingly, though, I've seen the word used as a synonym for 'novice', a usage that would have been unheard of among the nuns that taught me. Is this a creeping neologism perpetrated and perpetuated by folk with slight acquaintance with or knowledge of the religious life and its practitioners; or have I been missing a subsidiary meaning all these years?
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Re: Neophyte

Postby Bazr » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:17 am

If someone is thinking of joining a religious order, the first years of training are called the novitiate.
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Re: Neophyte

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:51 am

The way I understood it, the women in the novitiate
were called novices. It followed a short period of
postulancy where they were called postulants. Novices
wore white veils....full habit of the regularly professed
nuns, but with white veils. They can be seen at
mass on the cable network EWTN, if you can get that
cable station. I run across it when flipping channels.
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Re: Neophyte

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:31 pm

I checked the OEtymD and found neophyte comes from ecclesiastical Latin dating from 1550. (We need a different abbreviation so the etymology dictionary can be distinguished from the Oxford one, which has prior rights to the OED abbreviation.)
Both words have usage outside ecclesiology. I first encountered "novice" as a kid in a Dave Dawson book where I read the enemy gunner was no novice and stuck to his guns. I interpreted it to mean he was capable or no amateur. Later visiting someone with my parents, I listened to a piano recording of Jose Iturbe and commented "Wow! That guy is no novice." An adult corrected me and said he was indeed a novice, that he was new on the music scene at that time. Both uses of the word had nothing to do with the church.
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Re: Neophyte

Postby Pattie » Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:43 pm

All discussion so far of great interest but my original question stands: is novitiate now an acceptable synonym for novice - used in the ecclesiastical sense? Jars my ears and eyes but I'm prepared to bow to the wisdom of persons more learned than I, such as Dr Goodword, whose use of it in that way yesterday in exegesis of 'neophyte' (Meaning: 1. A recent convert to a belief, a novitiate, a proselyte. 2. A novice ...) prompted my query.
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Re: Novice

Postby Bazr » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:21 am

Accepted synonyms quoted in Oxford Historical Thesaurus:

monk-child OE
a boy who is being brought up to be a monk.

nun-novice OE
Appositive, as nun-novice, nun-portress, nun-princess, nun-sister, etc.

novice c1390
A person who has entered a religious order and is under probation or trial before taking the required vows; a candidate for admission into a religious order; a probationer.

novitiate 1517-18
A novice in a religious order.

probationer 1629
A novice in a religious house or order. Later also (chiefly U.S.): a person who has joined a church on a probationary basis and is not yet a full member.
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Re: Novitiate

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:08 am

The answer to your question is, "Yes, novitiate is a synonym of novice. In fact, it was the original meaning of the word. In further fact, novice is a variant of novitiate. The history of the word is Medieval Latin novitiatus, from Late Latin novitius "novice", from Latin adjective novicius. The latter adjective became novice in French.
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Re: Neophyte

Postby Pattie » Fri Jul 18, 2014 1:30 am

Thanks to everyone for their useful and interesting clarification.
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Re: Neophyte

Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Jul 18, 2014 1:16 pm

Don't be a stranger, now, you hear?
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