• eke •
Pronunciation: eek • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To add to, to supplement, to extend. 2. To barely scrape by with, to gain very little through very hard work or exertion (often used with out: eke out a living).
Notes: Please do not confuse today's Good Word with the interjection of fright sometimes emitted by children: "Eek!" They are not related. In fact, today's word has no relations according to the dictionaries. You can certainly derive a verbal noun, eking, on the fly but referring to someone barely scraping by as an eker would be pushing your luck.
In Play: Today's is another Good Word tottering on the brink of extinction, especially in its original meaning: "Sandy Beach eked out the pleasure of the sun with occasional dips in a most refreshing ocean while she was on vacation." Here the word clearly means "to add to". The second meaning is by far the more common, though: "Susan Liddy-Gates repaired to Candy's Bar in hopes of eking a little fun out of that dismal day when she lost her first case since becoming a lawyer."
Word History: This word started out in Old English as ecan "add on, augment", a descendant of Old Germanic aukjan. It is easy to see that this word is related to Latin augere "to increase" and Greek auxanein "to increase." The roots of these words are found in several English borrowings such as augment and auxiliary "assistant, support-". If we switch the [a] and [u] and shift the [u] to [w] (common when [u] occurs before a vowel), we get the root of English wax [wak-s] "to grow" as in "to wax poetic". A few more changes and we get waist, an area well known for its growth and additions. (Today's excellent little word is an addition suggested by our old friend and Grand Panjandrum of the Alpha Agora, Mark Bailey.)
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