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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:00 pm

• ethereal •

Pronunciation: ee-thi-ree-êl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Flimsy, wispy, airy, floating along the edge of existence. 2. (Chemistry) Related to ether.

Notes: This charming word is the adjective from ether, which to the ancient Greeks was the crystal clear upper air breathed by the gods on Mount Olympus. That is where the sense of "airiness" originated. This word may be used adverbially with the usual suffix, ethereally. The quality it represents is ethereality. While this word's sound and meaning are beautiful as they are, I think the poetic—and now archaic—spelling, æthereal, gives it a more angelic and, well, ethereal appearance.

In Play: Spirits are the most likely creatures to be ethereal: "Charlene? She just swished through the house like an ethereal spirit on a mission without speaking to anyone." Untouchable objects are also ethereal: "Sidney Couch putters around an ethereal garden of images and ideas he has created in his mind and has very little contact with the real world." (I can understand Sidney.)

Word History: Ether comes to English from Greek aither "pure upper air breathed by the gods on Olympus". This word, interestingly enough, is a noun from the verb aithein "to ignite, light, set on fire". The connection would seem to be either the ethereality of fire or the fact that fires were kept in the temples of the gods. This is suggested by a Latin word of the same origin, aedis "temple, building", a word at the bottom of Latin aedificium, which came to English, via French, as edifice. (We owe Jacob Rossignuolo of Melbourne, Australija, much more than an ethereal expression of our gratitude for suggesting today's misty Good Word.)
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Postby Slava » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:36 pm

This one gets my vote as one of the most beautiful words in English. It's one of those that sounds like what it means.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:05 pm

My vote also goes to ethereal as a beautiful word. There is an old gospel song that says of "Heaven": "Where the air is pure, ethereal,..." I love it although I am not sure what the lyricist, William Hunter, really meant when he chose the word.

Once a little girl was asked to tell her favorite word. She said it was "dawnsearly". Her teacher asked for an example of the use of the word and the girl replied, "It is in the National Anthem: 'by the dawnsearly light'." We have to take beauty where we find it.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:34 pm

As a night owl, I'm pretty surly early.

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