Printable Version
Pronunciation: æg-nayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective

Meaning: 1. (Noun) A relative on the father's or male side of a family. 2. (Adjective) Related to the father's or male side of a family.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the correlate of enate "related through a common mother". Both words may be extended by the suffix -ic, agnatic for our word today, which may be converted into an adverb like agnatically, and an action or process noun like agnation.

In Play: Today's Good Word comes in handy when you want to focus on the males of several generations without reference to the females: "All the agnates of Ty Kuhn's grandfather seem to have great heads for business." An agnate does not have to be male, of course: "All the agnate aunts in the family were mountain climbers as well-respected as the patriarch, Andover Hand, himself." This includes Andover's sisters while excluding those of his wife.

Word History: Anytime we see -ate on the end of a word in English we suspect it comes from a Latin past participle, many of which ended on -atus in the masculine singular. Today's Good Word is a member of that happy family. This word came from agnatus, the past participle of agnasci "to become an agnate", comprising ad "to" + gnasci "to be born". The ultimate root of this word, gn-, is a variant of the Proto-Indo-European root gen- "to beget, give birth or rise to". This stem gave birth to Greek gyne "woman", whence English gynecology, but also a long glossary of other borrowings, including genre, gene, genus, genius, and generate. In English it turned up in kin, kind, and king. (We are uncertain of the agnation of Riutaro F. Aida, the famous Flaminius of the Alpha Agora but are sure we owe him a word of gratitude for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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