Printable Version
Pronunciation: kê-pi-chê-layt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To draw up articles of agreement, to negotiate terms of a settlement. 2. To surrender, cease resistance, yield, concede, give in.

Notes: This word has a luxurious lexical family. It has three personal nouns, capitulator, capitulant, and a capitulationist is someone who advocates capitulation, hence capitulationism. The adjective capitulary means "related to chapters", but capitulatory means "related to capitulation". Of course, the present participle, capitulating, serves as both adjective and action noun.

In Play: The original meaning of today's word arose in connection with armed conflict: "Germany capitulated to allied forces May 7, 1945." However, these days it is far more often used metaphorically: "Summer has finally capitulated to the onslaught of winter by falling to autumn."

Word History: Today's Good Word has come a long way semantically. It derives directly from Medieval Latin capitulatus, the past participle of capitulare "to draw up under headings (in chapters)", based on Classical Latin capitulum "heading, chapter". Capitulum, literally "small head", is the diminutive of caput, capitis "head, main", which Latin inherited from PIE kaput- "head, main". This word emerged in Old English as heafod, which went on to become head. In German it turned up as Haupt "head, main". Old French inherited Latin caput and converted it to chief (today chef), so a covering for the head was a couvrechief, made from couvrir "to cover" + chief "head". Middle English picked up this word, originally spelling it coverchef, then curchef, and dozens of other spellings along the way, but finally ending up with kerchief. (Now let's thank our long-time Swedish contributor Joakim Larsson for today's Good Word with the fascinating semantic travels.)

Dr. Goodword,

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