Word of the Day – Suffrage


1 : a short intercessory prayer usually in a series

2 : a vote given in deciding a controverted question or electing a person for an office or trust

3 : the right of voting : franchise; also : the exercise of such right

Did You Know?

Why would a 17th-century writer warn people that a chapel was only for “private or secret suffrages”? Because suffrage has been used since the 14th century to mean “prayer” (especially a prayer requesting divine help or intercession). So how did suffrage come to mean “a vote” or “the right to vote”? To answer that, we must look to the word’s Medieval Latin ancestor, suffrāgium, which can be translated as meaning “vote,” “support,” or “prayer.” That term produced descendants in a number of languages, and English picked up its senses of suffrage from two different places. We took the “prayer” sense from a Middle French suffrāgium offspring that emphasized the word’s spiritual aspects, and we elected to adopt the “voting” senses directly from the original Latin.


“The assembled citizens who spoke out against slavery and demanded universal suffrage have contemporary counterparts demanding racial justice today.” — Ken Paulson, The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), 13 Dec. 2020

“The struggle for women’s suffrage began well before 1920 and more freedom for women has extended beyond the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920….” — The Hickory (North Carolina) Daily Record, 10 Dec. 2020

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