The word valedictorian was invented in the early seventeenth century and meant "to take leave". It stems from the Latin word vale, meaning "farewell", and dicere, meaning "to speak". Let's break it up a bit further. Vale is a conjugated form of valere, which derives from the Proro-Indo-European word wal, "to be strong". This is also the source of the -wald part of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them antagonist Grindelwald and the father of today's word valiant. The second part of valedictorian, dicere, is also Latin from PIE, where it was deik, to point out. Through a bunch of etymological corruption, this word also birthed the predecessor for teacher, digit, and our word, dicere. Dicere, which may sound familiar because it itself is also the root for Spanish decir and English diction, meant "to speak or tell" and when combined with vale described a "goodbye speech" and eventually just a goodbye. It's really fascinating how many words are hidden in valedictorian, how "strong teacher" is related to "Grindelwald's digit". Etymology is awesome!
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd