Printable Version
Pronunciation: shê-grin Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: A sense of uneasiness, annoyance, or embarrassment caused by disappointment or frustration; mild mortification.

Notes: I am chagrined to find that we have not already done today's Good Word. Despite its hazy origin (see Word History) it is too good to be left behind. It may be used as a verb meaning "to bring on chagrin", as in 'He was chagrined by her coldness.' This verb paves the way for an adjective made from its past participle: chagrined "experiencing chagrin".

In Play: This word probably occurs most frequently in the phrase '(Much) to X's chagrin': "Much to Anne Chovi's chagrin, her favorite dish had been replaced in the fall menu at the restaurant by something much blander." However, it may be used outside this phrase: "With considerable chagrin the quarterback asked his teammates to help him take off the tight helmet."

Word History: The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary think that chagrin came from shagreen "leather with a rough surface". The French word referred to a rough chamois used to polish by making minute scrapes, a meaning that was extended to the notion of irritation brought on by frustration. An alternative explanation is that the French word chagrin "sorrow" is a loan translation of the German word Katzenjammer "a hangover". A loan translation is a type of borrowing from another language in which the elements of a foreign word, as Katzen, "cats" + Jammer "distress, wailing", are translated to corresponding elements in another language, in this case, chat "cat" + grigner "to grimace". If neither of these explanations works, then we are back to what most dictionaries tell us: "origin unknown". (Let's not chance chagrining Susan Ardith by not recognizing her recommendation of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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