• enchant •
Pronunciation: in-chænt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To cast a spell over, to bewitch, entrance. 2. To overwhelm with charm, enthrall, captivate, beguile.
Notes: Enchant is usually encountered as a participle, the present, enchanting, or the past enchanted. These are now adjectives best used to refer to women. Enchanting means "extremely charming" and enchanted means "totally charmed". Of course men can be enchanting, but another man would hardly say so. The noun is enchantment.
In Play: First, let's use the basic meaning, "to cast an actual spell". Every parent wishes they could enchant their children to obey them by simply giving them a magic potion. The children's upbringing would be much less messy. Evenings may be enchanting, as in the Rodgers and Hammerstein song, "Some Enchanted Evening". This song is about an evening that is made magic by meeting the man or woman you fall in love with. Magic today is extremely positive, as all the synonyms of enchanted above bear witness to, far from the scary black magic of old.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Old French enchanter "to enchant", inherited from Latin incantare "to cast a spell". This word was made up of in en- "in, on, against" + cantare "to sing". English borrowed the noun from this verb directly from Latin for its incantation, which retains its black magic insinuation. Cantare is a variant of canere "to sing", which went on to become chanter in French. English borrowed it as chant and, while it was there, picked up the feminine noun, chanteuse "female vocalist", as well. The original root of this word, kan-, became hen in English, perhaps as a result of confusing chanticleer the rooster with the objects of his affection. (We owe a debt of gratitude to Marianne Spottswood for suggesting today's enchanted and enchanting Good Word.)