Posted by: Jack Henry | August 25, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Bashful, Disgruntle, Unkempt

Unpaired words are words that would appear to have related words but do not. I previously wrote about the unpaired words uncouth, feckless, hapless, reckless, and ruthless. Today, let’s look at three more: bashful, disgruntle, and unkempt.


Definition: socially shy or timid; diffident, self-conscious

Etymology: Middle English abaschen ("to lose one’s composure") was shortened to basshen, and then to bash.

Is bashless a word? No, but unabashed is similar in meaning.


Definition: to make ill-humored or discontented

Etymology: Middle English grunten ("to grunt") became Modern English gruntle ("to grumble"), which is still used in some British dialects.

The prefix dis- usually means "do the opposite of," but in a few words (like disgruntle and disannul), dis- is an intensifier. So a person who is disgruntled grumbles all the time.

Is gruntle a word? Yes, and not just in the British sense of "to grumble." In 1926, someone gave gruntle the secondary meaning "to put in good humor."


Definition: not combed

Etymology: Old English cemban ("to comb") became Middle English kemben, which became Modern English kemb, whose past participle is kempt.

Is kempt a word? Yes. It means "combed." Merriam-Webster says it’s dialectical, but it doesn’t say which dialect.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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