December 04, 2012
fracas (noun)
\FRAY-kus\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a noisy quarrel or fight
How do you use it?
Everyone wanted the hot new toy for the holidays, and when a brawl erupted over it in the store, many parents jumped into the fracas, shouting and pushing each other to get the last one on the shelf.
Are you a word wiz?

What language does the English word "fracas" ultimately come from?

If you chose D, bravo! "Fracas" comes to us ultimately from Italian. The Italian verb, "fracassare," means "to shatter." The French borrowed the noun form of "fracassare" as "fracas," and we in turn borrowed it from the French. "Fracas" has been used since the early 1700s, a time when many Italian words began appearing in English. Most of these words were musical terms: the growing interest in learning music among the upper classes in England is probably what spurred this on. We have continued to borrow Italian words up to the present--one very recent Italian addition to our dictionaries is "barista," a person who makes and serves coffee.
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