• nascent •
Pronunciation: nays-ênt, næs-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: About to be born or being born, beginning to form, emerging, at a very early developmental stage.
Notes: We have a choice of two nouns from this adjective, nascence [nascent-s] or nascency. All English adjectives ending on -nt form their nouns the former way: different - difference, reliant - reliance. Some, however, offer the same option as today's Good Word: expedient - expedience - expediency.
In Play: Today's Good Word is ambivalent as to which side of birth it refers to. It may also refer to the moment of birth: "A nascent—and probably evanescent—idea struggled across the mind of Lucinda Head." It can also be used to refer to a short while post partum: "Her nascent business didn't seem to be moving fast enough for Minnie van Sales."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin nascen(t)s "young, immature" (literally "being born"), the present participle of nasci "to be born". The past participle of this verb, natus, went into the making of natio(n), which originally meant "birth". However, this word didn't stop here, but went on to acquire the meanings "people, tribe", in other words, people of common birth. This sense of the word broadened to "people of the same culture", which led to its confusion with the sense of country. Another word derived from this verb is native "born in a specific culture". The earliest manuscripts tell us that the Latin verb was originally gnasci. This would explain the use of this form in pregnant, from Latin pre- "pre" gna- "give birth" + -nt "-ing". It would also imply that it is related to the plethora of Latin words containing gen- "give birth to or be related by birth" that I have discussed in previous Good Words. (We should now thank John Crowe, a nascent but promising contributor, for his contribution of today's very Good Word.)