To understand the origin of maladroit
, you need to put together some Middle French and Old French building blocks. The first is the word mal
, meaning "bad," and the second is the phrase a droit,
meaning "properly." You can parse the phrase even further into the components a
, meaning "to" or "at," and droit
meaning "right, direct, or straight." Middle French speakers put those pieces together as maladroit
to describe the clumsy among them, and English speakers borrowed the
word intact back in the 17th century. Its opposite, of course, is adroit
, which we adopted from the French in the same century.
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