• adumbrate •
Pronunciation: æd-êm-brayt, ê-dêm-brayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To vaguely suggest, to give faint indication. 2. To disclose only faintly, to make vaguely visible.
Notes: The abstract noun from today's Good Word is adumbration. An adumbration is the shadow of a suggestion, the weakest form of indication. It comes with two adjectives, adumbrant "vague, indistinct", adumbrative "vaguely suggestive".
In Play: Remember, an adumbration is not a suggestion, but the faintest hint of a suggestion: "The first colored leaves of autumn adumbrate the onslaught of winter, just as the first robin song and crocus adumbrate the explosion of color and song in summer." We see adumbrations everywhere, every day of our lives: "The light peeping under the door adumbrated that someone was in the room."
Word History: Today's Good Word was inspired by adumbratus "overshadowed, outline", the past participle of adumbrare "to overshadow, represent in outline". This word engages two constituents, ad "to(ward)" + umbra "shadow", as in umbrage and umbrella. Where the word umbra came from, no one knows. It has been suggested that it is related to Sanskrit andha "darkness", but the sound changes present problems. The preposition-prefix, ad "to(ward)", can be found in many Proto-Indo-European languages. It shows up in English as at and Sanskrit as adhi "near", so it must have been a preposition in PIE meaning "to, near, at". (I thus far haven't even adumbrated who suggested today's Good Word: it was William Hupy, to whom we owe more than an adumbration of thanks.)