• paradise •
Pronunciation: pæ-rê-dais • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A place of surpassing beauty and happiness, an idealized perfect location. 2. (Christianity) Heaven. 3. The Garden of Eden, the abode of Adam and Eve according to the Book of Genesis.
Notes: We have a plethora of adjectives in the company of today's noun to choose from. They include paradisiac(al), paradisal, paradisean, paradisic(al). My spellchecker prefers the first of these, but I find the third somehow more appealing.
In Play: We all try to transform our homes and grounds into paradisean gardens: "Perry Winkle owns a large estate that his grounds-keepers turned into a garden paradise." Of course, paradise can be a state of mind, too: "Everywhere is paradise to Pete Moss so long as he is in the company of Heather Fields."
Word History: The history of today's Good Word provides an example of semantic amelioration, when a word over time comes to refer to something better than it did originally. The old Persian language, Avestan, had a noun pairidaeza- "a surrounding wall", composed of pairi- "around," and daeza- "wall". (The equivalent Greek form of the preposition pairi is the peri in perimeter.) Daeza- comes from the Indo-European root dheigh- "to mold, form, build", the same word that went into the making of figment. The Greek military historian Xenophon translated the word pairidaeza- into Greek as paradeisos. He used this word not to refer to the wall itself, but to the enormous private parks enclosed by walls, where Persian nobles loved to hunt. This Greek word was used in the Septuagint translation of Genesis to refer to the Garden of Eden, whence Old English eventually borrowed it around 1200. (We thank Daniel Obertance for suggesting this little bit of lexical paradise as a Good Word.)