Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for February 10, 2020 is:

debonair • deb-uh-NAIR  • adjective

1 : suave, urbane

2 : lighthearted, nonchalant


“Bacs, 47, has sharp features, including a pointed nose; he carries permanent stubble and slicks back his silvered hair, in the style of a debonair, world-conquering James Bond villain.” — Cam Wolf, GQ, May 13, 2019

“The fat kolaches and muffins go fast, but that still leaves treats to take home: piercingly sweet lemon bars, debonair key lime tarts, and petite, fairy-tale-perfect chocolate cakes peeking out from cascades of pink icing.” — Patricia Sharpe, The Texas Monthly, April 2019

Did you know?

In Anglo-French, someone who was genteel and well-brought-up was described as deboneire—literally “of good family or nature” (from the three-word phrase de bon aire). When the word was borrowed into English in the 13th century, it basically meant “courteous,” a narrow sense now pretty much obsolete. Today’s debonair incorporates charm, polish, and worldliness, often combined with a carefree attitude (think James Bond). And yes, we tend to use this sense mostly, though not exclusively, of men. The “carefree” characteristic of a debonair person influenced the modern “lighthearted, nonchalant” sense of the word, as illustrated by film critic Owen Gleiberman: “It wouldn’t be wrong to call Ocean’s Eleven a trifle, but it’s a debonair trifle made with high-wire effrontery, the kind that can’t be faked. This giddy and glancing charade is one of the most sheerly pleasurable movies to come out this year….”

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