What does the word ‘petard’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: petard.

You’ve probably heard the expression “to be hoisted by your own petard” on many occasions. It means to be injured by the device that you used in order to injure others.

Reader John Friesen recently sent me this word, taken from a Feb. 25/16 story on the Republican primaries in the Washington Post. The Post’s Chris Cillizza named Rubio the winner and Cruz the loser. Here’s what he said:

Cruz was strangely absent from the main back-and-forths of the night.… [He] also tried to make the electability case against Trump but found himself hoist on his petard by The Donald, who noted that the Texas senator’s polls aren’t in a great place. 

My etymology dictionary tells me the noun dates back to the 1590s, when it referred to a small bomb used to blow in doors and breach walls. It comes from the French pétard which, in turn, comes from the Middle French péter meaning to “break wind,” from Old French pet “a fart.” This in turn comes from the Latin peditum, noun use of neuter past participle of pedere meaning “to break wind.”

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