Printable Version
Pronunciation: kah-mê-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)

Meaning: 1. Mutual respect, courtesy, civility, social harmony. 2. A community of nations based on common self-interests and mutual respect. 3. The avoidance by one religious denomination of proselytizing members of other denominations.

Notes: Comity is a lovely word for "courtesy" and "mutual respect". It is a lexical orphan. It is related, via Latin, to the phrase posse comitatus "(an) escorted power", origin of the English word posse.

In Play: Comity may arise between individuals: "Negotiations proceed faster and more smoothly in an atmosphere of comity." It just as often connect nations: "The American-Canadian comity has led Canadians into many wars, even those that a majority of Canadians oppose."

Word History: Today's Good Word is the English remake of Latin comitas "courtesy, kindness, friendliness", from comis "courteous, kind, friendly". Our best guess is that Proto-Latin created this word from PIE smei- "laugh, smile" by adding the prefix co(m)- "(together) with" to smi-, the combining form of smei-, which produced cosmi-. This word was later simplified to comis. English converted the original PIE word into both smile and, with an R suffix, to smirk. Russian smeyat'sya "to laugh" and Latvian smiêt "smile" also evolved from the same PIE word.

Dr. Goodword,

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