Printable Version
Pronunciation: kæn-têl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The hind bow or back part of a saddle. 2. A large section cut out of anything, particularly a thick slice of bread, cheese, meat, or the like.

Notes: Today's Good Word is still useful but hanging by a thread to the English vocabulary. It may be used as a verb meaning "to portion or cut out"; otherwise, it is a lexical orphan.

In Play: The first sense of today's word is probably the only one current: "The cowpunchers wore rattlesnake bands on their hats or stretched the skin over the edge of the cantle of their saddles." However, the second sense appears regularly in the literature of the 19th century: "Behind the tent Trudy noticed a small boy leisurely devouring a sizeable cantle of melon."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old Northern French cantel, in Central Old French chantel, and currently chanteau "scrap, slice of bread or other material". This word should have been a diminutive of cant, first used in Scottish English meaning "edge, brink". The most common PIE word cant- meant "to sing, song", so this word's origin remains mysterious. It could not be borrowed from a neighboring non-PIE language, for we find Latin cantus "iron wheel rim", Greek kanthos "corner of the eye", Breton cant "circle", and Welsh cant "periphery, edge". So PIE may have had two homophonic words kant1- and kant2-. (Let's now thank an old friend Susan Gold for returning to the fold of regular contributors with today's precariously perched Good Word.)

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!