I love words. In high school, my English class was roundly chastised by our teacher for not being intellectually curious enough to look up words we didn’t know (while reading Crime and Punishment—I sort of felt getting through that tome was task enough without having to stop every page or two to look up new words!). Since that day, I’ve made a habit of underlining and looking up words I’m unfamiliar with, something I more or less keep up (depending, of course, on exactly how horizontal I am on the couch while reading).
Years ago, I came across a surprising word that I should have known existed, but didn’t. It was the adjectival form of the word winter. Do you know what it is?
Of course, because of the equinoxes, I was already familiar with the words vernal and autumnal:
autumnal: autumn; autumn: 4.
But I had no idea that summer and winter had their own adjectival forms too (outside of summery and wintry, that is). Until I came across the word brumal in a book I was reading (sorry, I can’t recall the book now and it isn’t in my notes anywhere). Of course, I picked up the nearest dictionary (this was back in the days when people used real, physical dictionaries, rather than apps or smartphones). I learned:
< brume, -al
And then one day, I was sitting in a library in Maryland using a public computer, and I noticed an “ask the librarian” chat feature. This was it! I typed my question into the chat box and waited for the librarian’s response. She didn’t know off the top of her head, but she knew how to find the answer, and soon she sent it back to me:
estival (sometimes aesitval):
So there we have it: vernal, estival, autumnal, brumal. Do you feel a bit smarter now? What’s the coolest word you’ve learned lately?
All definitions from Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
Photo by me.