Printable Version
Pronunciation: kên-stæ-byê-le-ri Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The collective constables of a specific town or area. 2. (Jocular) The local police.

Notes: In the US today's word is used only jocularly to refer to the police collectively. It is based on constable which, in the US, is a county police officer below the rank of sheriff, and in the UK, a police officer of the lowest rank. This word has an adjective, constabular and, in England, a place noun, constablewick "the jurisdiction of a constable", which is rarely used.

In Play: This word, as mentioned before, is used jocularly in the US: "If our parties get too boisterous, our neighbor downstairs usually knocks on the ceiling with a broom handle before calling the constabulary." Again: "When the local constabulary arrived at the scene of the Rabelaisian party, one of the partygoers peeled the magnetic insignia from the door of the squad car and took it home."

Word History: English picked this word up from Old French connestable "steward" (Modern French conntable), the principal officer in the Frankish king's household. French reduced the Latin phrase comes stabuli, literally "count of the stable", i.e. "chief groom", to connestable. Modern French table corresponds to English stable. It goes back to Latin stabulum "stall, stable", based on the same PIE word that came to English as stand, steed, stallion and stud (horse). Starboard is historically unrelated to the stars. It comes from Old English steorbord and Middle English sterbord, which meant "the steering side". Yes, the verb steer comes from the same PIE source as stable, since one usually stood when steering a ship. (Lest Diane Lyons send the constabulary after us, let us now extend to her all the gratitude we can muster for submitting today's lovely Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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