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Initially, it denoted a weak point of a sword blade; now it denotes a weak point of character; what word is it?

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Answer: foible

The first OED citation of foible in the sense "the sword blade's weak point" is from 1648; its first use in reference to weak character is from 1673.

Note that in French the word faible means "weak"; thus, le maillon faible, the weakest link.


I think I see a web of metaphors developing here. Were you reading a book about medieval armour or what? I suspect "maillon" is the origin for our "mail" (as in "suit of mail").

[Mootguy: No. The only book I read is the Concise Oxford Dictionary.]
jacko at

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