• atelier •
æ-têl-yay • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The studio or workshop of an artist or designer.
Notes: This word hasn't been in English long enough to lose its French pronunciation. The fact that it refers to the arts encourages the retention of that pronunciation. It has no relations, though, and remains to this day a lexical orphan.
In Play: Today's Good Word carries an implication of a place where creative work is carried out: "The Chamber of Commerce forced Art Major to change the name of his store from 'atelier' to 'shop' when they discovered he was selling machine-cast sculptures." Of course, creativity is a concept that applies rather broadly: "With her PhD in philosophy firmly in hand, Bonnie Lass opened a little philosophy atelier on Market Street, where she tailored weltanschauungs for a small but devoted coterie of clients."
Word History: Today's word came to us directly from French around 1840. In Old French it was astelier "carpenter's shop", a word based on astele "small board, splinter". Astele came from Late Latin hastella "a stick, small rod", the diminutive of hasta "spear, rod". Some think, however, that astele was the descendant of Latin astula "little board", the diminutive of assis "board". The spelling of hastella is closer to astelier but the meaning of astula is closer. Take your pick. The original atelier was a carpenter's shop but that meaning broadened to any shop where custom work is done. Today it tends to imply an artist's or designer's studio. (We do thank Perry Lassiter for ordering today's Good Word from alphaDictionary's lexical atelier.)
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