• candidate •
kæn-dê-dêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A person trying to attain an office, degree, or other position of honor that he or she is qualified for. 2. A person who has qualified for some honor or distinction, as a candidate for an academic degree.
Notes: As the Democratic Convention starts up in Philadelphia and with the Republican Convention already behind us, we will be hearing a lot from and about candidates for public office. We thought that you might like to know a bit more about this word, based on the word candid, but referring to someone who is often less than candid. The state of being a candidate is candidacy, though candidature and candidateship have been tried in the past.
In Play: Today's Good Word is most commonly associated with the political arena: "Corry Publican did so well as a used-car salesman that his friends urged him to become a candidate for political office." However, the meaning of this word has broadened to Meaning No. 2 above, so we can also say, "Gene Poole's application for a patent on his inflatable dartboard just proves he is a prime candidate for the loony bin."
Word History: History can invest words with a good deal of irony, but few compare with the ironic twist visible in today's Good Word. Candidates for political office can be the least candid among us, yet the very word that names them comes from candid. Candidate was borrowed from Latin candidatus "clothed in white, candidate", from the white togas worn by Romans seeking office. This word was derived from the adjective, candidus "white, dazzling, clean, pure", so a candid statement is one without blemish. Candidus came from the verb candere "to shine". Candela was an object that shines, a candle, the source of this word in English. (The best candidate for our gratitude today is William Hupy, who was kind enough to bring this Good Word to our attention.)