comity
n. mutual courtesy; civility

I decided to use this word this week because I recently acquired (in digital format—sadly, it’s to date unavailable in the US) the new album As Everything is a Tragedy by the band Comity.

The word is usually know in the phrase “comity of nations,” which is the sort of common courtesy that nations have for each others laws (Prime Directive, anyone?), but in fact the word can be used generally as well. The word comes from the Latin comitas, basically meaning friendly or affable.

As an interesting sidenote, those of you who have studied Beowulf may be reminded of a similar word, “comitatus,” which was the group of Germanic warriors who served a particular lord. Strictly speaking, comitatus was Latin for “of the country,” and the full phrase from Anglo Saxon was posse comitatus, or “force of the country.” In fact, the term was coined by a Roman historian, Tacitus, in A.D. 98. Interestingly, we’ve kept “posse” in a somewhat similar sense to the way it was used to describe the era of Beowolf.

§1458 · October 18, 2006 · Tags: ·

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