Podcast moot

Printable Version
Pronunciation: mut Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A public meeting, especially one convened for judicial or legislative purposes. 2. [Adjective] Arguable, debatable, open to debate, not settled, as a moot question. 3. [Adjective, Law] Undebatable, of no significance because irrelevant or already decided.

Notes: Today's word is what some have called a 'contranym', a word with two meanings that contradict each other. Outside North America, the adjective means "arguable, open to debate" while in North America it means "not debatable". The noun is seldom used in North America but is still alive in other dialects of English: "Town officials were called together in a moot to discuss enforcement of the new statute." The comparative of this word is mooter while the superlative is mootest.

In Play: We are primarily interested in the adjectival meaning of today's word. In Britain you might say, "Whether Franklin could carry the can of paint to the roof on his head without spilling any was a moot question that Franklin did not want to settle that particular day." Here the question is open, unsettled. In the US, however, someone is more likely to say, after the accident, "Whether Franklin could have made it to the roof without spilling any paint had Rory not shaken the ladder is a moot point." Here the point is no longer relevant since Franklin is currently sitting on the ground covered with paint.

Word History: Today's Good Word meant simply "meeting" in Middle English, when it was spelled simply mot. Actually, meet and moot developed from the same PIE source, med-/mod- "measure, to take appropriate measures, advise", source also of Sanskrit masti- "measuring, weighing", Armenian mit "thought", Hindi maatra "amount, magnitude", and English mete, as in 'mete out'. Latin seems to have been the IE language that made the most of med-/mod-. In Latin we find medicus "doctor" and all the derivations from it, meditari "to meditate, think about", moderari "to moderate, keep within measure", modus "measure, size". English borrowed all these, and many of the words derived from them.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!