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In a Word: Scapegrace

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

SCAPEGRACE

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Sometimes English, instead of adapting from the Latin or Greek, reverts to its Germanic heritage of fusing words together.

Scapegrace

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combines

scape

, an archaic variant of escape, with

grace

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, in the theological sense. A scapegrace is literally a person who has escaped the grace of God.

In its milder applications, a scapegrace is mischievous and wayward, especially in references to a child or young person. An adult scapegrace is a reckless sort, or a scoundrel.

The word carries a 19th-century tone, as in this example from Hawthorne's "House of the Seven Gables": "According to this version of the story, Judge Pyncheon, exemplary as we have portrayed him in our narrative, was, in his youth, an apparently irreclaimable scapegrace."

Example:

The word can also serve as an adjective: Their scapegrace nephew was sent back to the penitentiary after violating his parole.

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