• quinquennial •
Pronunciation: kwin-kwen-i-êl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun
Meaning: 1. Occurring once every five years. 2. Lasting five years. 3. (Noun) Fifth anniversary.
Notes: Today's word is a rarity in containing two instances of the cluster QU. Remember that the first one heads a syllable spelled quin and the secondm, quen. Then all you have to do is double up on the Ns and you should have no trouble with this word. It has but one relative used at all frequently, the adverb quinquennially.
In Play: The usual meaning of this word is "every five years": "On his quinquennial visits home, Pierce Dearing found it difficult to find a topic to discuss with his parents." The other meaning, "lasting five years", is less often encountered: "Profits for the past quinquennial period have been lower, but we have high hopes for this one."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us, via French, from Latin quinquennialis "five years old, occurring every five years". In Latin this word was a compound consisting of quinque "five" + enn- "year", a variant of annus + an adjective suffix. The Latin word quinque—believe it or not—goes back to the same Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word penkwe- "five" that turned up as pente in Greek (pentagon), fünf in German, pjat' in Russian (from an earlier panti), and five in English. We see the normal change of PIE [p] to Germanic [f] in these words. In Latin, the cluster [kw] (QU) copied itself over the initial [p] to form quenque "five". The Old Germanic word fing-wraz "one in five" ended up as English finger and German Finger. (Now is the time to thank Timothy Knox for suggesting today's Good Word; we hope it will not be a quinquennial occasion.)