We often see defenestrate used in a somewhat jocular, mock-intellectual way for throwing someone or something out of a window. Is there, or could we imagine, a similar word for "throwing (someone) under the bus?" Not as literal as 'sacrifice', but rather something more whimsical, in the same vein as defenestrate?

  • 3
    I guess steamrolling is too worn-out to be whimsical any more, but when people first came up with it it must have been almost exactly what you are looking for.
    – user86291
    Feb 24 '15 at 21:18
  • @HansAdler Good word, but it implies that the actor is driving the bus, rather than throwing someone under it.
    – Jim Mack
    Feb 24 '15 at 23:12
  • 2
    Sure: They threw him under the bus.
    – Robusto
    Feb 25 '15 at 1:05
  • 1
    To subject is, in a literal sense, to "throw under". Feb 25 '15 at 7:21
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    I misunderstood this question when I first read it (before the description) and was hoping to find a specific word for throwing someone out of a bus window! Feb 25 '15 at 10:45

You could generally subvehiculate someone, maybe? (Subvehiculation would be the obvious noun then).

In reference to this question, you could even say the person that was handled in such a way was subvehiculate, as an adjective; of course with a schwa in the final syllable).

  • 3
    I think the "obvious" noun would be subvehiculation, not subvehiculisation since your verb is not subvehiculise :) Feb 24 '15 at 20:21
  • I really like subvehiculate, it has that faux-erudition quality of defenestrate. It could only be improved by finding a 'vehicle' word that is specific to a bus.
    – Jim Mack
    Feb 24 '15 at 23:12
  • Given that the Latin word for bus is laophorium (from modern Greek), finding a more bus-y base word that actually works could be tricky.
    – user86291
    Feb 25 '15 at 0:01
  • 1
    Since it's only a joke anyway, you could use "omnibus". It's not Latin for "bus", but it is the word from which "bus" derives in English, so one can imagine that "subomnibise" or something came along with it :-) Feb 25 '15 at 1:59
  • 4
    I'm accepting subvehiculate, wishing I could also accept @ScotM's answer because it's a fabulous construction (though it should be subusticate, eh?). But this is a better word. It's mellifluous and it doesn't need deep analysis to figure it out when you first see it.
    – Jim Mack
    Feb 27 '15 at 12:51

Since nothing in the dictionary quite fits, we can cut and paste to build



to sacrifice an innocent subordinate to the the crushing condemnation and wrath of the larger community for the sake of maintaining the boss's pristine self-asserted innocence:

The explicit word picture of the root bus hides behind the t , a dental accommodation for the generic -ic suffix:

adjective suffix, "having to do with, having the nature of, being, made of, caused by, similar to" (in chemistry, indicating a higher valence than names in -ous),

from French -ique and directly from Latin -icus, which in many cases represents Greek -ikos "in the manner of; pertaining to."

From PIE *-(i)ko, which also yielded Slavic -isku, adjectival suffix indicating origin, the source of the -sky (Russian -skii) in many surnames.

Bustic: having to do with both the bus and getting busted, because the boss can never be busted, and you are close enough to the door to fall out without any pushing that would be obvious from outside the bus.

A bustic atmosphere filled the boardroom when the scandal was revealed.

The prefix sub- is slightly obfuscated by the assimilation of the final b:

word-forming element meaning "under, beneath; behind; from under; resulting from further division,"

from Latin preposition sub "under, below, beneath, at the foot of," also "close to, up to, towards;" of time, "within, during;" figuratively "subject to, in the power of;" also "a little, somewhat" (as in sub-horridus "somewhat rough").

This is said to be from PIE *(s)up- (perhaps representing *ex-upo-), a variant form of the root *upo- "from below," hence "turning upward, upward, up, up from under, over, beyond" (cognates: Sanskrit upa "near, under, up to, on," Greek hypo "under," Gothic iup, Old Norse, Old English upp "up, upward," Hittite up-zi "rises"). The Latin word also was used as a prefix and in various combinations.

In Latin assimilated to following -c-, -f-, -g-, -p-, and often -r- and -m-. In Old French the prefix appears in the full Latin form only "in learned adoptions of old Latin compounds" [OED], and in popular use it was represented by sous-, sou-; as in French souvenir from Latin subvenire, souscrire (Old French souzescrire) from subscribere, etc.

The original meaning is now obscured in many words from Latin (suggest, suspect, subject, etc.). The prefix is active in Modern English, sometimes meaning "subordinate" (as in subcontractor); "inferior" (17c., as in subhuman); "smaller" (18c.); "a part or division of" (c.1800, as in subcontinent).

Subustic: Pertaining throwing you under our bus when we bust you, because you are under us, and nobody under you is big enough for spectators to consider a worthy sacrifice.

John felt his chest restrict with subustic dread.

All our actions will remain obscured by plausible deniability, but something has to happen, hence the suffix -ate:


Forming verbs such as defenestrate, subusticate.

Never doubt they will subusticate someone before culpability can reach the top.

Other derivatives:

Subusticate (n): the quasi-willing sacrifice: Who saw the logic of assigning Judy as subusticate for Sam's crime?

Subusticant (n): the loyal employee announcing the verdict publicly: Top brass appointed Harry as subusticant for the press conference.

Subusticade (n): the crowd of loyal employees surrounding the subusticant to help throw the victim gracefully under the bus: Ted's subusticade was so big we assumed they were covering up for the President himself.

Subustication (n): the act of throwing another loyal employee under the bus: Subustication was suddenly the third most common cause of termination at Greyhound.

  • 1
    Marvelous answer, bravo. Now we just need to get it into general use!
    – Jim Mack
    Feb 24 '15 at 23:47
  • 1
    Just so that no one thinks this authoritative and proof that surbusticate is a generally accepted word, you should probably specify that you’re making up a neologism here. Feb 25 '15 at 0:10
  • 5
    I'd prefer subusticate or debusticate
    – Ex Umbris
    Feb 25 '15 at 4:00
  • 1
    as defenestrate describes an object reference a window, this word must also describe an object reference a bus. i'm fine with your root bus; however we need to use the prefix sub- rather than sur- to accomplish the same. surbusticate suggests above or on top of the bus.
    – Erich
    Feb 25 '15 at 5:40
  • 1
    By popular demand, the "etymology" and spelling has been changed for subusticate. English belongs to Everyman.
    – ScotM
    Mar 15 '15 at 13:30

The French word dérouler means to unroll or to make flat. That certainly can happen to someone that ends up under a bus. So, maybe derolate

Thinking of falling under a chariot's wheels (carrum in Latin, giving us car, cart and carriage) might suggest something simple like decarate, which is not very decorous, but is quite decarrous, and you may want to avert your eyes.

  • How does de- fit in with under, hit by, in case of the wheel? Wouldn't a different prefix be more suitable? In defenestrate, de- implies the outward action of being removed through the window, but in this case, the movement is towards the actual source of eventual pain. I'd rather suggest subcarrate or encarrate.
    – oerkelens
    Feb 24 '15 at 20:16
  • You're absolutely right, but since is whimsical anyway, I stuck with the de- prefix only out of personal preference for the sound or the words. Feb 24 '15 at 20:22
  • + 1 for obfuscatory effect combined with real meaning!
    – ScotM
    Feb 25 '15 at 1:08
  • Latin plaustrum ("wagon") might suit better than the word for chariot. Feb 25 '15 at 2:14
  • succarate would do the trick rather than decarate.
    – Erich
    Feb 25 '15 at 6:22

As the origin of the modern bus is indisputably French, I suggest using the original French word to convey the root meaning:

voiture - a carriage, wagon, or other wheeled vehicle.

(voiture) omnibus - (carriage) for all

I do not think the goal should be to necessarily make the term's definition immediately apparent (as defenestrate is not).

The prefix is just as important as the root, lest we confuse our readers or listeners. Since the root is French, we can use the prefix sub-:

subvoiture correctly identifies our object as below or under the bus.

Now, for a little action:

subvoiturate - to be/put under the bus

  • Problem: in current day-to-day French voiture just means "car" (in the broad "multi-person private vehicle" sense of car in English), making those in the know read subvoiturate as meaning "throw under the... car?" This is unlike defenestrate, which those in the know can read and understand directly. I like this approach, but "voiture" just doesn't carry the weight being asked of it here. Feb 25 '15 at 6:16
  • modern french, yes, but also of a vehicle in general, so i think the meaning is there. users of defenestrate rarely question what type of window the object exited.
    – Erich
    Feb 25 '15 at 6:19
  • It's a stretch, since voiture excludes buses. This is unlike fenestre, which does not include some windows but not others. Since this is specifically for buses, a morpheme that excludes buses isn't ideal. I do like the approach though. Speaking French myself though, subvoiturate looks silly (in the wrong way). Feb 25 '15 at 6:22
  • i agree it's silly. can't help that definitions change over time. in one sense, subvoiturate has that archaic feel to it, something that bus (a near universal word) does not. (like balderdashing a word based around "stop".) personally, i like subvehiculate.
    – Erich
    Feb 25 '15 at 6:26
  • The trouble is, "voiture omnibus" hasn't been used to mean English bus since the 19th century, and then only for a brief period of time measured in months. It's an interesting etymological footnote, but voiture is the wrong half of the etymological origin of bus — our word came from latin omnibus, as illogical as that is at the semantic level. Feb 25 '15 at 6:29

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