Word of the Week

qui vive, n.

[‘ on (also upon) the qui vive: on the alert; on the lookout.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌkiː ˈviːv/, U.S. /ˌki ˈviv/
Forms: 17– qui vive, 19– key veev Irish English.
Etymology: < French qui vive, qui-vive, noun (1626) < qui vive?, lit. ‘who should live?’, i.e. ‘(long) live who?’ (1470 in Middle French) a sentinel’s challenge, intended to discover to which party the person challenged belongs (with an expected answer of the form vive le roi(long) live the king, vive la France (long) live France, etc.) < qui who (see who pron.) + vive, 3rd singular present subjunctive of vivre (seevivers n.). Compare post-classical Latin qui vivat? (1419 in a French source, or earlier).With on the qui vive compare French sur le qui vive (1690).
N.E.D. (1902) gives the non-naturalized pronunciation (kī vīv) /ki viv/.

1. on (also upon) the qui vive: on the alert; on the lookout.1726 Swift Let. 15 Oct. (2003) III. 35 Is it imagined that I must be..Alway upon the qui vive and the Slip Slop.
1752 H. Fielding Amelia II. v. vii. 141 Though he be a little too much on the Qui vive, he is a Man of great Honour.
1834 F. Marryat Peter Simple III. xiv. 181 This put us all on the qui vive.
1883 E. P. Roe in Harper’s Mag. Dec. 56/1 ‘What now, Webb?’ cried Burtis, all on the qui vive.
1933 B. Gadelius Human Mentality vii. 163 His senses are always on the qui-vive.
1980 V. S. Pritchett Tale Bearers 85 Greene is always on the qui vive for the ironies of impotence and desire.
2002 A. Caulfield Show me Magic xiv. 287, I love big dangerous cities, always having to be on the qui vive.

2. Chiefly in France or in French-speaking contexts: a cry of ‘qui vive’, typically used as a challenge by a sentry. Cf. go v.. Now rare.1740 tr. G. Alderfeld Mil. Hist. Charles XII. III. 158 Upon which having demanded the quivive with his pistol in his hand, and receiving no answer, [he] returned..to look for his Majesty.
1820 A. J. Kempre tr. E. O. I. Odeleben Campaign in Saxony II. v. 322 The wonted stillness of night was now only interrupted by..the qui vive? of the sentinels.
1903 B. Carman Poems II. 110 From behind the tall door that swings outward, replies no patrol To our restless Qui vive?


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