In a word: dotard

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


Before we started shrinking from the terms dementia and Alzheimer's, taking quiet inventory of our memory and other faculties, we had a gentler word for the fading of intellectual acuity with age: dotage. And a person who had arrived at dotage was a dotard (pronounced DOHT-rd), someone silly or stupid whose mind has been impaired by age, a person in what we used to innocently call "second childhood."

Dotard is by no means a complimentary term, but at least it's not clinical. 

The noun comes from the verb dote (Middle English doten): to be silly or out of one's wits, and, similarly, to be excessively fond of or to bestow excessive affection. 

It is tempting to think that the seventeenth-century dottard, for a tree that has lost its branches, is etymologically related, but the Oxford English Dictionary thinks not.


Example: From Robert K. Tanenbaum's True Justice: "This was said with such a tone of forbearance, as to a dotard, that Marlene shrugged and put her wallet away." 

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