From the Oxford Dictionary

An action or remark that causes outrage or offence.

Effront is not in any of the major modern dictionaries including the Oxford dictionary, however it is cited in wiktionary from the 1913 Webster's dictionary as

To give assurance to.

Effrontery is listed in the modern day Oxford Dictionary as well as other dictionaries

Insolent or impertinent behaviour.

I came across this word as a crossword answer for the clue Brass Neck which made me assume that Effrontery was the action of Effronting or performing an Effront. However it does not seem to be the case and the historic definition of Effront appears to be something else entirely. I would not have been surprised to have seen the definition of Affront appearing as the definition for Effront because they seem connected.

Are these words all related somehow? I could not find much about the etymology.


Thanks for the link to etymonline I haven't come across that before. It explains that there was an Effront but it disappeared. It says to compare Effrontery with Affront but it offers no explanation of how it came to be. Looking up Affront on there shows Related: Affronted; affronting. but no Affrontery and the meaning is worded differently perhaps they are considered interchangable.

I would like to know how we ended up with some words beginning with A and some beginning with E and why there are certain variations that do not exist in each set. Seems strange.

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    Please include the research you've done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. The Online Etymological Dictionary is considered a general reference work. Jun 26, 2017 at 22:20
  • The definition to give assurance to is not in the OED, which has two definitions: To free from bashfulness (a backformation from effronted) or To put to confusion. Maybe to give assurance to somehow came from to free from bashfulness. Aug 26, 2017 at 11:30
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    According to the OED, the word effronted means Shameless, barefaced, unblushingly insolent, and it comes from French effronté. The word effront in English seems incredibly rare. Aug 26, 2017 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


According to the OED, the word effront is a backformation from effronted (which used to be an English word) and means:

  1. To free from bashfulness,
  2. To put to confusion.

In the 1911 Webster's dictionary on Google books, I find the second definition, as well as:

  1. To give assurance to.

The verb effront is incredibly rare; nearly all the hits in Google books are misspellings of affront. I suspect that it has mainly been used by people who guessed at its meaning by knowing the meaning of the adjective effronted, and not by people who learned its meaning from hearing or reading it.

The word effronted used to be a real English word, and according to the OED it means:

Shameless, barefaced, unblushingly insolent.

So what would effront mean, if it's a backformation from effronted? It's what you have to do to somebody to make them effronted. What would do this isn't clear at all.

So would all three definitions of effront above, if done to somebody, result in them being shameless, barefaced, unblushingly insolent?

I think so, although it's only clear for the first definition. For the second definition, somebody who is confused and scared might lash out and be unblushingly insolent. For the third definition, if you gave assurance to somebody that their actions would have no consequences to them, they might become shameless or unblushingly insolent.

The adjective effronted comes from the French adjective effronté, which also does not appear to have a corresponding verb. And effronté comes from the Latin word effrons, which also gave us effrontery.

Literally, the Latin word effrons means without a forehead. Why that should mean shameless is not entirely clear. Merriam-Webster gives two possible explanations. One of them is:

Some explain that "frons" can also refer to the capacity for blushing, so a person without "frons" would be "unblushing" ...

The word affront comes from the French verb affronter, meaning to confront, to face. This comes from Old French afronter, whose construction would literally mean "to slap on the forehead", but which le trésor de la langue français informatisé says also meant "to shame" and "to confront".

So effronted and affronted in common have the root front, meaning forehead in French. It's possible that the word front was a metonym for blush in the etymology of both of them—so the etymology of effronted would be unblushing, while affront would be to cause to blush (one of its early meanings was shame; the other to slap in the face.).


The connection is the term front: late 13c., "forehead," from Old French front "forehead, brow" (12c.), from Latin frontem (nominative frons) "forehead, brow, front; countenance, expression (especially as an indicator of truthfulness or shame).



  • To the Romans, the shameless were "without forehead," at least figuratively. Effrontery derives from Latin effrons, a word that combines the prefix ex- (meaning "out" or "without") and "frons" (meaning "forehead" or "brow") .

  • The Romans never used "effrons" literally to mean "without forehead," and theorists aren't in full agreement about the connection between the modern meaning of "effrontery" and the literal senses of its roots.

  • Some explain that "frons" can also refer to the capacity for blushing, so a person without "frons" would be "unblushing" or "shameless." Others theorize that since the Romans believed that the brow was the seat of a person's modesty, being without a brow meant being "immodest," or again, "shameless."


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