• ravenous •
Pronunciation: ræ-vê-nês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Extraordinarily hungry.
Notes: Today's word seems to have been derived from the second meaning of the verb raven "to gorge oneself, devour voraciously", as in, "After cleaning the garage all morning long, the children ravened on hamburgers and French fries." We seldom use the verb, however, though it is still there to be used. Ravenous has a family of two: an adverb, ravenously, and a noun, ravenousness.
In Play: This word most often refers to gluttonous eating: "Coming in after a long, hard soccer game, the kids were so ravenous they ate spinach without uttering a word of complaint." It works just as well with other types of consumption besides eating: "Rhoda Book ravenously devoured every word of the article about herself and her new novel."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Old French ravineux, from raviner "to take by force". This verb was inherited by French from Vulgar (Street) Latin rapinere, a word derived from the noun rapina "robbery, plunder". The meaning shifted from "plunder" to "plunderous eating" in Middle English. The original Proto-Indo-European root underlying rapina, rep- "to snatch", was also the origin of English rob, German rauben "rob", and Italian rapinare "rob". The PIE word also became Latin rapidus "seizing" whose meaning, over time, shifted to "swift, rapid", at which point English borrowed it, too. (Today we thank Husain Mustfa, whose ravenous appetite for English words led him to suggest this extremely interesting good one for our series.)