Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Friday, August 27, 2010
It's not a really modern sounding word, is it? Nevertheless, it's come up several times in the course of my reading these last few weeks in contemporary works, always a sign that I should consider a word more thoughtfully. I think I know what it means--resolute, resourceful, plucky, stalwart. (Not that I know what those last two words really mean either.)
But what's it from? It certainly can't come from dough, can it? Because all I can think of in that context is the Pillsbury Doughboy. And doughty he may be, but he's not exactly a role model. Well, let's check it out..
Okay--stouthearted and resolute, we get the drift. It goes back to the Old English dohtig--competent, good and valient, and it's got one of those PIE roots, namely *dheugh- --to be fit, able or strong.
What's interesting is that according to the Online Etymology dictionary, doughty is rare after the seventeenth century (!), and when you see it now, it's usually in an archaic or mock-heroic form, which I must admit seems to have been the sense of the uses I've seen of it. Apparently, if it has survived into modern currency, it would be rendered as "dighty".