March 22, 2013
quaint (adjective)
\KWAYNT\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: unusual or different in quality or appearance; especially : pleasingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar
How do you use it?
"Ivar had never learned to speak English and his Norwegian was quaint and grave, like the speech of the more old-fashioned people." (Willa Cather, O, Pioneers!)
Are you a word wiz?

At one time, "quaint" had a meaning that we no longer use. What do you think it was?

Many years ago, people used "quaint" to mean "expert or skilled." We no longer use "quaint" that way, but that meaning is much closer to the word's origins than is today's common meaning. We trace "quaint" to Anglo-French, the French language used in Medieval England. The Anglo-French word "queinte" meant "clever, expert," and was derived from Latin "cognoscere," meaning "to know." Middle English speakers adopted the Anglo-French word and used it to mean about the same thing. From there it developed the meanings "marked by skillful design" and "marked by beauty or elegance." Eventually it developed the meaning that is most common today, "pleasingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar."
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