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Pronunciation: kên-spair Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. To join a secret plot to do a wrongful act, to scheme secretly, connive. 2. To act in harmony, to combine well, to fit together.

Notes: Today's word has a rich Latinate family. The action noun is conspiracy. It comes with three personal nouns, conspirer, conspirator and conspiratress "female conspirator", and two adjectives conspirative and conspiratorial. Conspiricism is the belief or advocacy of conspiracy theories.

In Play: Conspiracies usually involve planning in secrecy: "Horatio joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government just to be with Aly Katz." But it needn't involve planning: "Political instability, economies, and social unrest conspire to drive people to our borders." In fact, conspiracies don't necessarily result in unpleasantness: "The chocolate, espresso, cognac, and vanilla conspire to produce rich, delicious flavor."

Word History: English borrowed this word from French conspirer "to plot, conspire", which it inherited from Latin conspirare "to agree, unite, plot", originally "breathe together" or, perhaps, "to gather spirits". The Latin word is made up of com "(together) with" + spirare "to breathe". Spirare underlies spiritus, whence English spirit, perhaps because in cold weather breath can become visible and its close association with life. Latin got its word from PIE (s)peis- "to blow". We find further evidence of it in Icelandic, Swedish and Norwegian fisa "to break wind", German pispern "to whisper", Russian piskat' "to squeak", and Albanian piskat "scream". (Lew Jury thought today's Good Word timely in light of the rather rare trials for seditious conspiracy taking place in the US these days [2022-23].)

Dr. Goodword,

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