Dec 2, 2015

Etymology Expeditions: Dark December Words


December is here again, which means it's getting darker and darker. The sun sets around four thirty, so it's already dark when I get back from work. And it's dark before I leave in the morning, so sunlight is a luxury reserved for the weekends. 

Boy, it's fun to live in Finland!

So, there's the theme for this week's Etymology Expeditions. Let's descend into the darkness and see what we find.

Darkness comes from Old English deorcnysse, from Old English deorc "dark, obscure, gloomy, sinister, wicked, sad, and cheerless." Yup, that's Finland in the winter.

Abyss is one of my favourite words in the English language. It comes from Old French abime, from Latin abyssus "bottomless pit," from Greek abyssos "bottomless (pool)." It might be related to the word bathos, "depth."

Dusk comes from Old English dox "dark-haired, absence of light." It's originally a colour word, and the twilight meaning is only from the 1600s. Twilight comes from twi+light, with the twi referring to half-light. In Sanskrit it's samdhya, "a holding together, junction." Another twilight word is gloaming, from Old English glomung "twilight," probably formed from glom "twilight," related to glowan "glow."

Shadow has its origins in Old English sceadwe, "shadow" from sceadu, "shade."The meaning of "anything unreal, a ghost" is from the 14th century. The verb shadow is interesting; it comes from Old English sceadwian  "to protect with covering wings."

So, let the shadows envelop you in their dark wings and surrender to the gloaming. 

The sun will return, one day. 


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