• challenge •
chæ-lenj • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, Noun
Meaning: 1. To confront and dare to do something, such as to compete in a game or do something dangerous. 2. To confront and call into question, as for a sentry to challenge an approaching stranger or challenge the results of an election. 3. To severely test, to make great demands, as a job might challenge our abilities.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used as a verb or a noun with pretty much the same meanings: a challenge is a dare or calling into question. The adjective is the verbal participle, challenging, as a challenging (demanding) job. The adjective challengeable may be used in sense No. 2, as challengeable qualifications. The past participle, challenged, is often used as a euphemism for handicapped, as a physically challenged person.
In Play: A challenge may involve only one person: "Herbie isn't good at multitasking: doing his job and breathing at the same time challenge his capacities." On the other hand, it may involve two people: "Little did Little know, when he challenged Marguerite to a friendly game of horseshoes for $100, that she was then the reigning US champion at that game."
Word History: Middle English borrowed chalenge from Old French, a language that was peculiar for changing C [k] to CH [ch] before A. Latin castellus "castle" became château in French and caritas "affection" became charité (borrowed by English as charity). French chalenge came from Latin calumnia "trickery, false accusation", a noun based on the verb calvi "to deceive". So a challenge was originally a false accusation. The sense of confrontation carried on, but the general meaning of this word moved from a negative to a positive sense somewhere along the way between Latin and English. (Today we thank Perry Dror, who quite handily meets the challenge of finding Good Words with stories as intriguing as today's.)