I should start by clarifying that this post is not about the song by Neil Young (a very good song, by the way) or the song by the Bee Gees (an okay, but not great song). Just in case you wondered.
For some reason I subscribed a few years ago to Dictionary.com‘s “Word of the Day” service, which means that every day I get an e-mail from Doctor Dictionary giving me the definition of some word that I may never use. I enjoy them, anyway. I also subscribe to a Theological Word of the Day, which I find even more interesting. But, this post isn’t about that.
Today’s Dictionary word was the transitive verb, “defenestrate.” I know that it’s a transitive verb because the e-mail told me. However, I would not have ever guessed what the word means. I do know, however, what “fenestration” means, which added to the problem. Fenestration, which is a noun, refers to the design of windows. I know this because my job once required me to know alot about windows, and I worked with an architect who specialized in windows who used the word in his company name. It’s kind of a cool word, fun to say, but it’s not something that most people have opportunity to use that often.
Fenestrate is a bit more odd in that it is an adjective that looks like it should be a transitive verb. Most people say “fenestrated,” but apparently it’s also appropriate to say something like, “that wall is lined with fenestrate openings.” It is derived from the Latin word fenestra, which by now you probably could guess means “window.”
Which brings us to “defenestrate.” I typically think of the prefix “de-” as meaning to undo, as in, “I need to defrost the refrigerator,” or “he was rather decomposed.” However, it doesn’t always mean “undo;” I read (on Dictionary.com) that in Latin, it typically means “down.” That still doesn’t explain “denude,” which does not mean to put clothes on. But, that’s grist for another mill.
Putting the prefix “de” in front of “fenestrate,” knowing what we do about “de,” could mean just about anything, including to remove fenestrated openings, to close a window (the “down” definition), or as is used in denude, to simply be a window. I should mention here that denuding in front of a fenestrated wall is not typically a good idea, unless you’re an exhibitionist.
By now, you’ve probably looked the word up already and stopped reading this very interesting post. But for those of you who have stuck it out, here’s the real definition: defenstrate means “to throw out of a window,” as in, “the bouncer defenestrated the drunken reveler.”
Words. Don’t you just love them?