Saturday, November 24, 2012


Stephanie asked about the word scandalous, as in scandalous behavior.

The root word is scandal. It comes from the Greek σκάνδαλον (skandalon), which originally meant a snare or a trap that would spring shut on its prey.

In English, the first sense was theological. Scandal was any discredit to religion occasioned by the dubious conduct of a religious authority who was supposed to be an impeccable example. Later, it expanded beyond humans and applied to any stumbling block to faith.

In time, it slipped into the secular realm, becoming any event injurious to one’s reputation, or an insult to the social fabric or sensibility. Because norms varied so widely depending on the era, social class, population density, and other such considerations, some scandals of the past are now seen as laughable. Once upon a time, for instance, it was scandalous for women to wear slacks.

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

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