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What is the origin of the word defenestration?

Reformation - Defenestration or Outrage at Prague flickr photo by History Maps shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)

The Answer

The word defenestration, meaning “the throwing of a person out a window” was coined after an incident known as The Defenestration of Prague in 1618 where a rebellious mob threw Czech government officials out of a window, an event which led to the Thirty Years’ War.

Let’s begin by looking at the definition of defenestration.

defenestration (ˌ)dē-ˌfe-nə-ˈstrā-shən

1: a throwing of a person or thing out of a window

2: a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)

Defenestration | Definition of Defenestration by Merriam-Webster

Defenestration is derived from the Latin de meaning ‘of’ or ‘from’ and fenestra meaning ‘window’.

The many defenestrations of Prague

The word defenestration was coined in 1619, a short while after an incident in Prague in 1618 where, according to Merriam-Webster, two imperial regents were thrown out of a window after being “found guilty of violating certain guarantees of religious freedom”. The incident became known as the Defenestration of Prague and “marked the beginning of the Bohemian resistance to Hapsburg rule that eventually led to the Thirty Years’ War”.

The word defenestration was coined in 1619, a short while after this famous incident.

This wasn’t the first time that Prague experienced political change by way of defenestration. Another event now known as the First Defenestration of Prague took place in 1419 when a crowd of radical Hussites stormed the town hall and threw a number of city counselors out the window, an event that led to a brutal civil war.

Two other famous defenestrations occurred in Prague alone. An event similar to the first happened in 1483, and in 1948 a Czech official named Jan Masaryk was believed to have been thrown out of a window and killed by Communists in after their take-over of the country following the Second World War.

Were There Other Famous Defenestrations?

A quick search of Google for famous defenestrations finds a surprisingly large number of results. In fact, the first result gives us a glimpse of some of the victims.

Not all of the defenestrations mentioned were fatal but it’s probably best to avoid defenestration as if your life depended on it. Note: Frédéric Chopin was not himself thrown out of a window, but his piano was.

Is there a word for being thrown in a window?

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a word for this. I propose refenestrate!

The defenestration of Axel Foley

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