Cultural Watch

Word of the Day – foible |

Foible, foi-buhl, noun


A minor weakness or failing of character; slight flaw or defect.


Though it has its darker moments, no Bergman venture has ever been so warm, so understanding, so forgiving of human foibles. —KENNETH TURAN, “CRITICS CHOICE: RARE SCREENING OF FIVE-HOUR ‘FANNY AND ALEXANDER’ AT THE WILDER,” LOS ANGELES TIMES, JUNE 20, 2018


Foible, “a minor weakness of character, a slight flaw or defect,” comes from the noun use of the obsolete French adjective foible “the weak point of the blade of a sword” (the strong point of a sword blade is the forte). Foible is first recorded in Old French about 1175; it derives from Vulgar Latin febilis, from Latin flēbilis “lamentable, worthy of tears, causing tears,” a derivative of the verb flēre “to weep, cry, lament.” In French, foible was replaced by faible, another derivative of febilis, and the source of English feeble. Foible, in the sense “the weak point of the blade of a sword,” entered English in the first half of the 17th century; the sense “defect in character” arose in the second half of the 17th century.