How did the word “defalcate” originate and What does defalcate mean?

In its original sense, the word defalcate meant “to cut off by a sickle.”

Its Latin source, defalco, was formed from the preposition de, off, and f alx, sickle, and that was the literal sense in which the word was employed in Medieval Latin.

After its introduction into English speech, however, possibly from the notion that grasses cut with a sickle are then to be taken away, defalcate was used in the extended sense, “to take away.”

This has become its usual meaning, chiefly applied to the embezzlement of money.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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