Tuesday, 22 December 2009


This looks Dutch to me at first glance, but it originates from Latin:

duumvir n one of two men associated in the same office or post - pl duumvirs or duumviri - adj duumviral - n duumvirate an association of two men in one office or post; a government by duumvirs. [Origin from Latin duumviri, for duoviri, from duo two, and vir a man] Chambers, 1998

For two men associated in the same post, I want to suggest a pair like Reeves and Mortimer, but I suppose it should be men who have the exact same post, like multiple editors in a publishing house or salespeople in a shop. The "du" rhymes with "moo", so it's pronounced "doo-um-vir".

Of course, it comes from the Latin word for "man" and there is no female equivalent for this word: no "duumfemina" or "duummulier", for example. It'd be interesting to look in a more recent dictionary to see if this word has been gender-neutralised yet. I'm presuming it would be, much as something like "chairman" is referred to as a person of either gender.

I do like this word though. It sounds almost clownish: "This is Bob. He's my favourite duumvir". I wonder if I could stretch the definition to apply to siblings or other relations over the coming festive period?


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  2. Sorry, that was incredibly badly written. Let me try again: I like this word, not only for its double-u, but for the fact that it tells us that Pompee, Caesar, and Crassus were, by extension, triumvirs in the much more common first Triumvriate.

  3. Absolutely! And logically this extends to other numbers as well. Girls Aloud could be a quintumvirate. Wait, that doesn't work for lots of reasons.