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caliginous

Printable Version Pronunciation: kæ-li-ji-nês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Dark, dim, obscure, murky.

Notes: Today's is a lovely word slipping into the caliginous recesses of history. It comes with an adverb, caliginously, and a noun, caliginousness. Both—I am warned by my spellchecker—have already slipped into obscurity.

In Play: We occasionally find ourselves in situations that require a word more poetic than dark, dim, or murky: "Maude Lynn Dresser found her lost earring in a caliginous corner of her dressing room." However, this word has a host of figurative uses: "The senator's reasons for supporting his bill soon became so caliginous that no one could follow him."

Word History: English acquired this word, via French caligineux, from Latin caliginosus "misty". Latin derived its adjective from caliginem (nominative caligo) "mistiness, darkness, fog, gloom". We see the original root in Greek kelis "spot", and both Czech and Slovak have the word kalný "murky, turbid, muddy". Perhaps we could include Russian kalina "guelder rose", which is actually white. However, derivatives sometimes show up as antonyms of their source. English cold and scald derive from the same source. Black shares a source with bleach. Lithuanian kalyvas "bright white" reflects the same semantic reversal. (We owe a debt of gratitude today to the word-rescue efforts of Lew Jury, who recommended today's Good if fading Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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