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Bailiwick

Definition:  one’s particular area of activity, interest or authority

Origin

The origin to this great word is not all entirely clear, but makes perfect sense nonetheless. 13th century Old French bailiff stands for an administrative official, a deputy. The French word stems from the Vulgar Latin word that represented the official in charge of the castle. I am assuming that the initial –baili– stems from the above while the latter part’s addition to the word, –wick-, representing village in Old English, introduced it to the domestic sphere. The figurative sense of one’s natural or proper sphere was first recorded in 1843.

Why this word?

In our world of computers, technology, chips and other small devices, a word referencing castles and guards makes everything so much more romantic. When I use this word, imaginary it sends me back to past villages, where an individual with specific abilities was literally needed to survive. Many villages had one ‘professional’ resident and his profession was the main reason for others visiting that village. In times where you had to go to one village to get your shoes repaired, and to another to see a doctor, you really wanted these professionals to be worth the walk…

Bailiwick is a great word to use on job interviews, when offered a new title at work, or per any professional request or offer you stumble upon.

How to use bailiwick?

Bailiwick is a noun representing something you are good at. When someone asks you to do something, you can reply “sure thing, I’m on it! It is exactly my bailiwick!“, or you can say “sorry man, this is beyond my bailiwick, you’ll need t ask someone else“.

Bailiwick can also stand for a geographical area. When your friend tells you he is about to go to the worst neighborhood in town, just for a walk or something, you can tell him “you really shouldn’t be going there… It is not your bailiwick, they will eat you alive!”

In the opposite sense you can say “of course Dana is already at the beach! It is her only bailiwick!

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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for UnusedWords.com. Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.

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