Monday, November 24, 2008


A listener asked about the word martinet. Currently, it means a rigid military disciplinarian, and, by extension, anyone who is overly meticulous and demanding. It arose from a man’s name, Jean Martinet, who acted as Inspector-General under Louis XIV. He developed military drills and paid special attention to strict discipline.

What interests me is that the word has four versions, each with its own superscript, signifying that even though they are currently identical in spelling, they come from different sources. Martinet4 covers the information above.

Martinet1 is defined as a martin or swift, and, in the 1800s, a student at the University of Paris not living in a college.

Martinet2 was a watermill for an iron forge, a type of small cart, a siege engine used in warfare for bombarding with large stones, and a type of cat-o'-nine-tails formerly used in French schools. As a whip, it seems to figure prominently in BDSM circles.
Martinet3 was a demon supposed to summon witches to their assemblies.

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. There is no archive.

Write to Mike with comments or questions:
(substitute @ for AT above)

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Arbutus Press
or at

Visit the Senior Corner at



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints