• cad •
kæd • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Blackguard, rotten playboy, scoundrel, bounder, an unprincipled and dishonorable man, especially toward women.
Notes: Here is a word used almost exclusively in conversations and writings about the upper classes. It's highly unlikely that a homeless person or beggar would ever be called a cad. The only lexical family this word has is a diminutive caddie, which went off on its own to refer to a messenger or odd-job man in Scotland and to refer everywhere to a golf servant.
In Play: Because it is usually associated with upper classes you will hear and read sentences like this: "Her parents pushed Eileen Dover to marry a superrich cad, telling her that she would get used to him." However, the educated middle classes are not immune: "In college Randy Fellows was known as such a howling cad, girls with three-digit IQs avoided him like a plague."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a clipping of cadet, a word that became a slang word for servant. It was later used by students at Oxford and other English public schools in reference to townsfolk. Cadet's meaning has slid a long way since it was borrowed from Old French, where it meant "student officer" (today it means "young person"). French took it back from one of its dialects, that of Languedoc, where it was capdet "captain, chief, youth of nobility". That's what they did in Languedoc to Latin caput "head", from PIE kaput "head", which reached Old English as heafod, today head. In other Germanic languages it became German Haupt, Danish hoved, Norwegian hode, and Swedish huvud.