• bairn •
Pronunciation: bayrn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A child, a baby
Notes: Today's word has a healthy and happy brood itself. Bairnly "childish" is the adjective and adverb, which come with their own noun, bairnliness. Bairnhood is childhood and childishness is bairnliness. A family may be bairnless; if so, they suffer from bairnlessness.
In Play: This Good Word requires a keen awareness of whereabouts in use. In Scotland or Northern England (Yorkshire) you will be safe to use it, or wherever the Scottish congregate. In The Strength of the Strong, Jack London wrote, "Eleven bairns ha' I borne," [Margaret Henan] said; "sux o' them lossies an' five o' them loddies." The pictures hereabout are of Dr. Goodword's wee grandbairns, Laurel Beard and Abigail Beard, who have grown considerably since these picture were taken.
Word History: It always gives me great pleasure to discuss a word that was not borrowed from any language. Today's Good Word is pure English, inherited from its Germanic ancestors. The word in Old Germanic was barno- from the verb beran "to bear", which remains in all English dialects. Bairn is the Scottish form, but Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish retain it as barn. German and Dutch switched to kind and English, to child, which goes back to kil-d-. The root kil- was an old Germanic word meaning "womb" while kind is related to English kin, which comes from PIE gen- "to generate", whence also the gyne in gynecology. (An old Agora activist, Ekkis, raised the issue of naming our offspring across Germanic languages, and suggested today's very Good Word.)