• pregnant •
preg-nênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Carrying a developing offspring in the body, gravid. 2. Filled with, fraught with, containing a profusion, abounding in. 3. Filled with anticipation, as a pregnant pause.
Notes: Today's Good Word has only recently come out of the closet: up to 1950, it was a taboo word seldom seen in print except in its metaphorical senses (2 and 3 above). In its literal sense it came to be replaced by a profusion of euphemisms, such as "with child", "expectant" or, in a more creative vein, "having a bun in the oven". Today we can speak this word openly, as well as the adverb, pregnantly, and noun, pregnancy, that accompany it.
In Play: The literal sense of this word is straightforward and may be used only in a narrowly defined context: "Lucinda Head became pregnant five times before she finally realized what was causing it." The metaphoric sense may be used more broadly, though only in abstract contexts: "Henry returned home from the chemistry exam, his eyes pregnant with anxiety."
Word History: Today's Good word comes from Latin pręgnan(t)s "with child," literally "before birth". It is made up of pre- "before" + root of gnasci "be born." The GN in gnasci comes from the Proto-Indo-European root gn-/gen- "bear, give birth to" that we have seen in many other words such as gynecology from Greek gyne "woman" and generate, genus, and genuine from the Latin correlate, genus "kind, type, race". The same ancient root was converted to kin- in the Germanic languages, ending up in German as Kind "child" and König "king" and in English as kin, kind, and king. (We owe our gratitude today to the pregnant vocabulary of the mysterious Klimt, one of the many frequenters of the Alpha Agora.)
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