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Community Comment

A Word A Day — surfeit

October 16, 2012

Word of the Day

  • surfeit
  • audio pronunciation
  • \SER-fut\


: an overabundant supply : excess
: an intemperate or immoderate indulgence in something (as food or drink)
: disgust caused by excess

“A surfeit of the sweetest things / The deepest loathing to the stomach brings….” — From William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1596

“Every day, we're bombarded by options; the surfeit of decisions we don't really need to make can be overwhelming.” — From a restaurant review by Tania Ballantine in Time Out, June 14, 2012


There is an abundance—you could almost say a surfeit—of English words that derive from the Latin “facere,” meaning “to do.” The connection to “facere” is fairly obvious for words spelled with “fic,” “fac,” or “fec,” such as “sacrifice,” “benefaction,” and “infect.” For words like “stupefy” (a modification of Latin “stupefacere”) and “hacienda” (originally, in Old Spanish and Latin, “facienda”) the “facere” factor is not so apparent. As for “surfeit,” the “c” was dropped along the path that led from Latin through Anglo-French, where “facere” became “faire” and “sur-” was added to make “surfaire,” meaning “to overdo.” The Anglo-French noun “surfet” (“excess”) entered Middle English and went through a number of spellings before settling on “surfeit.”

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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